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240 Plaster surrogates from Allan McCollum are 240 brightly colored, plaster emblems that represent paintings.

Itamar Gilboa & Allan McCollum
The Food Chain Project & 240 Plaster surrogates, 2015

Is everything vanity?

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Artists often make us think about our own lives by treating their own daily pursuits as an experiment.

Itamar Gilboa meticulously listed all the food items he consumed over a whole year. He later used this voluminous diary as the inspiration to make a plaster cast menu with more than 6000 items in all. The selection that we see displayed here is similar to a still life.

Traditionally, the genre reminded those viewing it of the finite nature of their material existence compared with an eternal life reserved for the spirit. Gilboa’s colourless wine bottles, cucumbers and bread slices also confront us with a form of material attachment, albeit contemporary: overconsumption.

Can we imagine a single thing that has not become a consumable today? Art itself, this work included, has not escaped that label either. The emptiness that sometimes accompanies it becomes clear in Allan McCollum’s ‘240 Plaster Surrogates’.

Instead of real paintings, the artist created brightly coloured plaster emblems that represent ‘paintings’. By tapping reality in enormous quantities, both artists are repeatedly able to adopt a critical stance: Gilboa in respect of food consumption, McCollum with regard to painting. Do they get us thinking about that too?