Great Moments in Art & Ale

by Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

In anticipation of this Friday’s Art & Ale (get your tickets here), I’ve assembled this list of three instances where beer inspired artists to create remarkable works of art.

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, 1960, oil on bronze, Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Jasper Johns, Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, 1960, oil on bronze, Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Jasper Johns casts beer cans in bronze to spite fellow artist
Title: Painted Bronze/Ale Cans
Medium: Oil on bronze
Year: 1960

According to the now legendary story, Willem de Kooning, a painter known for his large-scale, gestural canvases, badmouthed gallerist Leo Castelli, exclaiming the “son-of-a-bitch” could sell two beer cans as art. When word reached Jasper Johns, an artist represented by Castelli’s gallery, he cast two Ballantine Ale cans in bronze. Castelli sold them. Johns’ sculptural wisecrack now resides in the collection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany. Works like Painted Bronze/Ale Cans, in which Johns depicted everyday objects, helped usher in the transition from Abstract Expressionism, a dominant style of the 1950s which focused on monumentally scaled works reflecting artist’s psyches, to Pop Art, a movement in which artists looked to imagery from popular culture as sources of inspiration.

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, 1970 – 2008, 1979 installation view at SFMOMA; © 2008 Tom Marioni; photo: Paul Hoffman

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, 1970 – 2008, 1979 installation view at SFMOMA; © 2008 Tom Marioni; photo: Paul Hoffman

Tom Marioni drinks beer with friends, leaves the cans behind, calls it sculpture
Title: The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is the Highest Form of Art
Medium: Beer, friends
Year: 1970-current

Curator George Neubert brought the beer and artist Tom Marioni brought the party for this after-hours artwork in the empty galleries of the Oakland Art Museum. Sixteen of the artist’s friends joined him for beer and conversation, leaving the empty bottles behind to serve as a record of the gathering. This project continued as a regular series of private social events on Wednesday evenings in Marioni’s San Francisco studio, which the artist hosted to help foster community in the local art scene. Marioni enacts a version of The Act of Drinking Beer… in museums today, although it’s evolved to include an artist-designed bar, fridge and shelves of beer. A pioneer of participatory art, a type of practice in which an artist conceives of a situation creating social engagement, Marioni helped pave the way for artists like Eric Steen, whose Beers Made By Walking is next on this list.

Homebrewers enjoy beer and conversation during the first Beers Made By Walking tasting session. Image courtesy of www.ericmsteen.com.

Homebrewers enjoy beer and conversation during the first Beers Made By Walking tasting session. Image courtesy of http://www.ericmsteen.com.

Eric Steen turns hikes into inspiration for tasty brews
Title: Beers Made By Walking
Medium: Beer
Year: 2011-current

In 2011, artist and beer aficionado Eric Steen invited homebrewers and naturalists to accompany him on a series of seven hikes around the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. His guests identified edible plants they used to flavor eight specially formulated beers which were then brewed at a local commercial brewery and sold at pubs in Colorado Springs. Steen considers the beers portraits of the hikes. Like Tom Marioni before him, he is interested in the ways in which beer brings people together, and as demonstrated by Beers Made By Walking, the ways in which the beverage might connect its drinkers to the landscape around them. The project continues to this day and has expanded to include such major breweries as Deschutes and New Belgium.

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