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Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam reacts to Peter Anton's New York exhibition Sugartarium, in which the artist explores our deepest dependence on sugar in an explosively colourful collection of mixed-media sculptures depicting oversized childhood sweets

On Capturing the Nostalgia of Sweetness: Sculpting Sugar


Author

Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam
University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, Italy

In the exhibition Sugartarium (2017), artist Peter Anton explores our deepest dependence on sugar through an explosively colorful collection of mixed-media sculptures depicting oversized childhood sweets. Anton’s work undoubtedly tugs at standardised visions of alimentary nostalgia; you can almost smell the sugar in the air. One would expect such an exhibition to be focused on celebrating sugar, however, Anton’s collection showcases a debatably more dark and sinister side to sweetness: addiction and obsession. Anton describes Sugartarium as a way of exploring “the uncontrollable and insanely addictive hold sugar has on us”.

Situated in the UNIX Gallery in Manhattan, New York, the exhibition is designed as glimpse into an asylum dedicated to treating the dessertfully-deranged. Visitors creep through a “broken” window to find themselves among rooms displaying differing forms of treatment for sugar addiction. As you walk by hospital beds, child-sized muppet dolls are strapped down as a part of their treatment as a nurse sweeps up piles of loose rainbow sprinkles. On some days, human “patients” are seen cradling said muppet dolls while interacting with numerous types of sugary tweets as objects of play as the artist, isolated behind glass in an observational room, observes their process of treatment.

 

 

ice cream   cake
     
macarons peter anton sugatarium   cherry pie
     
moppet   bunny

 

In the adjacent rooms, the sugary sculptures are displayed in overly magnified and physically deconstructed forms. Through crushing, smearing, splattering, or breaking, each sculpture is manipulated to exemplify its unique textural qualities. These highly-detailed sugary sculptures are constructed using a variety of carefully selected components: resin, wood, plaster, clay, aluminium, as well as acrylic and oil paints. These media are reimagined into some of the most recognizable confections. Some of the sights include fluffy yellow confetti cake with rainbow sprinkles and fluorescent pink frosting, crumbly macarons, an oversized partially cracked milk chocolate Easter bunny, a juicy slice of pie, as well as an elaborately topped ice cream sundae. The overall concept of the exhibition is as relatable as it is eerie through its invoking of the consideration for sugar’s prowess in dictating individual sanity. Are we more than what we eat? Does temptation tamper with our lucidity? Is our love for sweetness harmless or something darker?

 

As overnutrition continues to plague many societies across the world and rates of obesity continue to rise, one might wonder how we got to this point. Whether its nutrition transition, or the notion of obesogenic environments, the collective growth of waistbands across the globe does not burgeon from a singular etiology, rather it manifests in the overlaps of numerous factors. Sugartarium forces us to confront our volatile relationship with our bodies and to recognize that issues associated with obesity are not solely those of the individual and that culpability is encapsulated within multiple levels of the food system. He posits that we are living in a reality in which sugar is the driving mechanism of our choices and innermost motivations. Including elements of Cartesian mind- body dualism, he touches upon the ways in which sugar effects our physiology and mental wellness and plays upon sugar-induced delirium.

The exhibit, in its title and conception, references the historical use of sanitarium centers for the treatment of long-term illnesses, especially tuberculosis. Anton draws upon the complex, long-term relationship many of us may have with sugar and emphasizes its toxic and debilitating nature. Anton aptly shifts a narrative of innocence and joy to one of anxiety and self-preservation against an imminent threat. What Peter Anton accomplishes with Sugartarium is the outward declaration and display of the manipulation (and inevitable destruction) of the individual; a gradual decay of health from numerous angles. Sugartarium exemplifies the inherent dangers lurking within familiar foodstuffs that populate our “pleasurable” and benevolent memories of foods that have followed us throughout our lives. Sugartarium unearths the uncomfortable truth about the oversaturation of the foodscape with sugar-filled food and food products. It shines a light on the importance of accountability in making food choices; our love for sugar, though riddled with nostalgia, is killing us. While some of Sugartarium may be considered hyperbolic and absurdist in nature, its guiding principle of a need to approach issues of obesity, sugar addiction and food addiction more rigorously, is firmly grounded in reality.

The Candy Wall
A critique/essay by G. H. H. art historian/critic


Joint solo Exhibitions by Peter Anton & Jens Lorenzen. Galerie von Braunbehrens, Stuttgart, Germany

Friendship happens. When artists are friends, do their works befriend each other as well? Often they turn their back towards their work, face to face, liking what they see in their friend, unrealized possibilities for instance, but reserving their professional judgment. In these cases, friendship is inside, the work remains outside. I remember writing an article entitled "Lüpertz, Immendorff, Attersee". One of the three is dead, one of them was not at all amused, but had to accept that friendship sometimes comes at a price. Friendship between artists can be a mined territory.

Yet here is friendship, nor will either of the two, Peter Anton or Jens Lorenzen, be annoyed to see their names and their works linked in an experiment which, as friendship is involved, seems innocent. In any case, if both artists are innocently playing their game according to their mutual rules, writing about their moves cannot claim to be innocent at all, it is informed and liable to withhold from the reader what the writer knows but will not tell. There is innocence in the aim to entice collectors of either artist into buying a work of the other, if only to document their friendship or possibly, because a link has become apparent that justifies this decision esthetically.

Both Jens Lorenzen and Peter Anton practice the collection two- or three-dimensional ready-mades from everyday reality, transforming them without using any of their parts or fragments in the resulting work of art. They both believe in artificiality and trompe l'œil in painting and sculpture respectively. They do not look for legitimation by authenticity. Both are distancing themselves from this sort of approach, not denying its legitimacy, but too conscious of how it would diminish their status as makers.

I have been thinking a lot about Scotland of late and like the down-to-earth approach to poetry that transpires in the Scottish term makar or maker, for poet, the most simple and pertinent translation of the Greek word that could be found. Makers, cobblers, carpenters. Jens Lorenzen learned to do carpentry before becoming a painter, never abondoning his original craft. Now he does no more than his own frames, but in earlier years, he lent a hand to the carpenters next door to his studio. He is a maker in more than one sense. A maker may be once removed from reality. A cobbler makes shoes, not feet. A painter makes an image which may be looked at twice or any number of times, while the things around us, made things mostly, often remain invisible even though they may themselves be images of things rather than the things themselves.

***

Peter Anton seems to create sentimental objects out of food and its packaging, out of the most seductive of foodstuffs, candies and ice-creams and sweets. I am not quite sure about the sentimentality, though. It may exist nowhere but in the eye of the beholder, in the immediate reaction of collectors or other observers.  The craving for sugar can be destructive.

Candy Art, seen in that perspective, monumentalizes the most insidious addiction rampant in Western civilization, the craving for sugar, which automatically includes alcoholism, because alcohol is sugar in a recognizably addictive and destructive form. Sugar is a killer. Sugar makes obese, much more so in America than Europeans can easily believe. Obesity may be subversive of esthetic rules of corporeal appearance, no doubt about that, but the obesity implied in candy is not subversive of anything.

Candy is nice to look at and to taste, even if it remains undigested or undigestible as in Peter Anton's sculptures. But it also reminds us of the ultimate fetish of our existence. Candy is a substitute - for sexual activity, for sin in its widest sense, for sentiments one ought or ought not to have. Therefore, no sentimentality is involved in making Candy Art, no sex, no sin. A sinister thought. Candy could also be regarded as the forbidden thing by excellence, the trigger of an addictive behaviour that it is extremely hard to repress, because sugar, in a sense, made humanity possible, in the guise of rice and crops and bread and potatoes and fruit and beans and honey. All these carbohydrates allowed humans to grow a brain, the most voracious of any bodily organ, while maintaining their capacity for hard, excruciating work. The brain does not need to think to be useful. It serves its purpose when the most easily distracted fool in a group cries out Fire! and saves the others, who are concentrating on their task instead of looking.

No wonder that sugars, who may elevate the fool to the status of saviour, belong to any kind of religious worship, whether in the form of bread and wine or in the foodist cult of the spaghetti monster, the ultimate form of which is achieved in spaghetti ice-cream. This sort of candy might in turn be taken for the ultimate in transsubstantiation available to contemporary consumers.

***

A wall is there to prohibit entrance. Something behind it remains off-limits, just as Candy Art removes candy from the reach of the observer's desire.

Jens Lorenzen's Wall conjures up images of fragmented posters, newspaper pages and cut-outs, book covers, visual content of every kind. But all these fragments, remembered and linked and completed by observer and artist alike, combine into an enclosure which, once the wall is completed by one final element linking its two ends, surrounds or excludes the observer depending on how it is assembled.

The wall may become a circular or meandering, convex or concave series of images either on the outside or the inside of a given space, the inside or outside of a garden wall, as in Paradise, with the forbidden fruit or candy at its centre, the forbidden fruit that myth will say triggered off human history. 

***

Both Peter Anton's Candy Art and Jens Lorenzen's Wall therefore embrace the concept of prohibition, rendering it futile. What is shown as being off-limits, remains accessible. Forbidden things are there to take or leave. No injunction to do the one or the other is pronounced.

But to return to the sentimentality of it all.

Both a giant cone of ice-cream and a fragment of a film poster, Once Upon A Time in the West, for instance, involve a pleasurable kind of recognition. Revulsion may happen, but sentimental pleasure is the better option. In this practical sense, to evoke pleasure is both makers' aim. That pleasure may be off-limits to some, whether diabetic or too young to be allowed in the cinema, but it can still be shared. Jens Lorenzen recalls an epiphany in front of the poster for Sergio Leone's film. He was too young to see the film and shared in its appeal all the same. A fetish, after all, can represent pleasure denied as much or more often than pleasure fulfilled.

Jens Lorenzen's Wall and the elements it is composed of or broken into represents the pleasure of recognition and memory, it involves the way we remember. If nothing could be recognized, the Wall would still offer analogies and symbols that could be linked intuitively, by the observer as well as by the maker combining them into fragmentary images of possible memories.

The pleasure of recognition in the case of Peter Anton's Candy Art implies a memory of taste, although the art-work is tasteless, in a practical, not an esthetic sense, unless it is the Beautiful that counts, since Candy Art is beautiful and tasteful in all its artificiality. Still, since beauty may be judged no longer to be esthetically correct, I refrain from entering more deeply into a discussion involving both the concepts of tastelessness and of tastefulness on any imaginable level. Just to single out the colour pink, I remember with pleasure the slogan of the fashion editor in Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn, a film that may be quoted here because it represents a perfectly unreal reality:

Think pink!

When asked why she alone of all the employees of her fashion magazine does not wear pink, she says: "I wouldn't be caught dead in it." Which goes to show that artists may be perfectly sincere while not following the rules they lay down for the observor, the client, the buyer to embrace.

***

In any case, the two artists approach colour differently. One represents a bill-board- and neon-sign-infested reality, the other an older or less obstrusive reality, where fences and walls are plastered over with paper or printed matter of every kind.  Bill-boards or neon signs stand alone, a fence or a wall encloses space.

Peter Anton uses colour as a solid, unchangeable fact about his objects. Jens Lorenzen paints colour as it drains away, splashes out and generally speaking, misbehaves compared to its original use. His colours have been exposed to wind and weather, while his paintings are not. 

***

Jens Lorenzen's Wall belongs to the space outside. Peter Anton's Candy Art belongs to the space inside. Their collaboration in the rooms of one exhibition, at Stuttgart, follows this idea. 

Essay / Critique for the catalogue published by Davis Klemm Gallery


Peter Anton

“An artist usually does their best work when they focus on something they know about very well and have experience and knowledge about that subject matter. For me, this was food.”

A huge ice cream sandwich. A gigantic Swiss roll. An oversized donut. They dance in front of a light blue sky, held in front of a camera by two hands. Peter Anton presents recently completed works on his Instagram account. That says a lot about the sculptor Peter Anton. First, he makes very real looking, but gigantic and inedible goodies, i.e. sculptures. Second, he enjoys his work, he has a sense of humor and presents his work with a twinkle in his eye. Third, although he obviously uses social media for promotion, he himself is not at the center of attention. Peter Anton likes to turn the spotlight on his work.

The sculptor Peter Anton was born 1963 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. He studied art and was originally involved in the film business. His strive for perfect illusion and for the extravagant staging of his exhibitions can be traced back to this background. Since 1991 his works have been presented in numerous exhibitions. He had his first solo exhibition in 1993 at "Henri Gallery" in Washington, DC. First and foremost, Peter Anton is undeniably enthusiastic about food and shares this enthusiasm with the world, as has been reflected in his oeuvre for 30 years.

 

Works of art: sweet or savory. 

“I enjoy all kinds of food and treats. I was never a fussy eater. I eat a chocolate every night before bed. I grew up at a time when the entire family sat down for dinner. It was not only about eating great food that was presented beautifully it was also about the discussion we had around the table.”

Peter Anton is best known for his sculptures of gigantic chocolates, although his range of works includes pastries and cakes as well as candy. Thanks to his artistic skills, the objects look extraordinarily realistic – especially those with a glazed surface.  In some articles, Anton is therefore often referred to as a candy artist or as “Candy Warhol”. Chocolate and donut boxes top his list of works, followed by ice cream in different variations, cakes and pies, lollipops, fruit gums and macarons, sugar hearts and candy apples as well as a chocolate Easter bunny. The models for his sculptures come mainly from the US and some sweets may therefore not fully develop their iconic and nostalgic effect in Europe. One such example would be “Double Pops”: a popsicle with two sticks that can be split and then shared. Corresponding to the actual frozen products, the colors appear particularly intense and even garish. Especially his versions of cakes in pink and turquoise look unusual in the eyes of Europeans. But it is this passion for color that accounts for the appeal of Peter Anton's works.

Peter Anton's “salty” works include fried eggs, bacon, hamburgers, fish, sushi, steak, peanuts or pizza. There are also various fruits - some of them dipped in chocolate. Just like his “sweet” sculptures, they are larger-than-life and accurate in every detail. The salty foods that he bases his sculptures on are just as high in calories and mouth-watering as the sweet ones. However, their effect is somewhat different. For one thing, the aesthetic appeal of a raw steak or piece of fish takes more getting used to than that of a donut. Even a perfectly fried egg or a piece of fried bacon are not as appealing in terms of their surface texture when compared to a smooth sugar glaze or chocolate icing. For another, there is the ethical question about the consumption of animal products that has come into focus in recent years.

Technique: perfect illusion.

For Peter Anton, the focus is on the perfect illusion. Which is why he has spent a lot of time perfecting his techniques for making his sculptures. He does not reveal the entire creative process, presumably to prevent imitation, but he likes to show his basic approach via social media. His first step is to carefully examine his food models. In addition to investigating the food with a magnifying glass and numerous taste and texture samples, he also studies the recipes. This precise examination is the basis for the richness of detail in his works. The materials used vary according to the objects. Resin, metal, wood and clay serve as the sculptural base. For the shape he sometimes uses specially made molds. Acrylic and oil paints create the realistic color scheme. He makes all details himself, even the paper cups for the chocolates, since the size he needs is not available in stores for baking goods.

Exhibitions: from amusement fair to temple.

The reviews of Peter Anton's exhibitions, especially their openings, read like a spectacle for the senses. Two such presentations are the exhibitions in New York's UNIX Gallery in 2015 and at Art Miami in 2012 during the Art Basel Miami art fair week.

The week of Art Basel Miami, the US edition of Art Basel in December, is known for alternative art installations. The unusual presentation by Peter Anton in 2012 fits into this framework. The artist invited visitors to a roller coaster ride with the title “Sugar & Gomorrah”. As at an amusement fair, two visitors could sit next to each other in a roller coaster car. They then rode through a world inspired by “Sodom and Gomorrah” and filled with “sweet” sculptures as well as erotic - albeit grated - scenes that were staged by living models. In contrast to a classic gallery visit, the visitors could not determine the length of stay in front of the individual works and scenes themselves. The background with music and the design of the entire ride emphasized the amusement character - with no time for art-loving contemplation. 

UNIX Gallery in New York presented a similarly spectacular production in 2015, this time in a different guise: the solo exhibition “The Foodhist Temple” (the word “Foodhist” being a play on “Buddhist” and describing a zen-like state of mind in respect to food and eating). The experience here was completely different: to enable contemplative discussion, the gallery was covered with carpets and cushions, visitors had to take off their shoes, and subdued lighting created a special atmosphere. On red walls, framed with golden stucco, hung the various oversized foods from sushi to boxes of chocolates.

In both cases, Peter Anton staged the encounter with his works of art or with food as an event. For him, they represent the close relationship that people have with food - as nourishment and stimulent. Both presentations underline the humorous and ironic character and the emotional approach that Peter Anton chooses for his works.

Pop Art, Consumption & Temptation

“People are very passionate about food and the conversation can become heated at times just like talking about politics. I observed the powerful hold food has on us all and am always fascinated by this."

 

In his presentation “Sugar & Gomorrah” from 2012, the aspect of temptation becomes particularly clear. It was only possible to get a quick glimpse of almost naked bodies and deliciously presented sweets. Anton is aware of the magnetic effect of his works and exploits it. For many, his eyecatching sculptures place him in the tradition of Andy Warhol – which is why some refer to him as “Candy Warhol”. There certainly are similarities between the two artists - with both choosing subjects that are familiar, attractive and bold. But Anton’s works attract exhibition visitors not only because of the subject matter, but also because of their wealth in detail. The illusion is so intriguing that it works both from a distance and up close. His works invite you to look closely and examine the material. Although the works are not edible, you are invited to a detailed “consumption” with your eyes. And consumption is ultimately the issue. Half-eaten chocolates, missing donuts and ice cream bars with a bite missing: these delicacies are portrayed in the middle of the process of being eaten. However, Peter Anton is not practicing consumer criticism, rather he indulges himself in pleasure, and his solo exhibitions are a feast for the senses and a celebration of food. At the same time, he offers viewers something to reflect on: What does the sight of this food do with me? Which emotions are triggered? In this way, he makes a chain of thoughts visible that often gets forgotten in everyday life.

The perfect illusion: hyperrealism.

It is mainly his open boxes of chocolates that cast a spell over viewers. The perfect sleekness of an advertising image is disrupted by individual empty paper cups or even chocolates that have been bitten off and put back into the box. They make the works hyperrealistic and tell a story. Why were the bitten off chocolates put back? Was the liquor filling too bitter? Or was it the sudden thought of calories? The “used” works create an imaginary consumer, to whom one involuntarily establishes a connection. This unknown protagonist may have had similar thoughts, feelings and desires when looking at the chocolates.

Peter Anton shows us familiar things, shapes and colors. As a result, the viewer has an immediate connection to his works. Because the viewer is not made insecure by what is depicted and the subject is recognizable, a basis for a deeper contemplation on Anton’s works is possible. The viewer can initially think about the artist’s craftsmanship and compare the work with their real-life inspirations. From there on questions and topics can develop. Peter Anton offers the viewer assurance and easy access to his works.

As easy as pie? Democratic art.

Many articles and texts about Peter Anton’s works contain - mostly right at the beginning - a description of the sensual impressions, like the desire to eat his works of art (which is certainly not a typical approach of journalists or art historians when describing artworks). However, it is precisely this connecting element that exemplifies the sensual perception of his works. It is something everyone can agree upon, whether coming from an art historical background or not. Even a child – especially a child – can understand this effect. This is an outstanding quality of Peter Anton's works, which ultimately has given them a place in so many collections. Regardless of perspectives and interpretations, his works speak in a direct and personal way and offer an easy starting point to start talking about art. His works do not require any prior art historical knowledge. You can consider Duchamp or Andy Warhol, but you don't have to. His works are easy to recognize in terms of their subject matter, and the effect and technique are undisputed. This makes Peter Anton a very democratic artist whose works are accessible to everyone.

             

Gigantically delicious: Of Alice and Charlie.

“Humor is one of the most important elements we have in order to cope and survive in this world.”

The size of Peter Anton's works and the presentation in his solo exhibitions are reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland” or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. The reason is the irritation caused by the size, the subject and the perfect execution. The works could also be part of a real production of Alice's rabbit hole. Our perspective is suddenly altered. Are we small or is the object large? Which rules apply in a world in which an egg yolk is the size of a frying pan? As adults we experience childlike curiosity through this shift in scale:  familiar objects are rediscovered though their magnification and seen differently than when an egg is fried in one’s own kitchen. What was ordinary before becomes suddenly extraordinary – but remains at the same time somehow familiar. This dash of humor, which Peter Anton brings to the art world with his works, develops from the question "What if …?" It gives us food for thought that works regardless of consumer criticism and nutritional awareness. He takes viewers by the hand and gives them the feeling that he is just like them, he shares their childlike, untroubled pleasure of eating. The colors, the taste, the smell, the texture, maybe even the nostalgia.

 

From cookies to art

Over the years Peter Anton has made a name for himself in the art world and his artworks are in renowned collections. Nevertheless, at the beginning of his career, his works were rejected by galleries. How paradox the art market sometimes is becomes visible here: on the one hand, the desire for genuinely new things, on the other hand, the security of the tried and tested. At the beginning, gallery owners were certainly faced with the question: is this art? In retrospect, the definition here is, as in many other cases, determined by the presentation and reception in the context of “art”. In other words: a glass of milk on a plinth in an art gallery would be perceived as a work of art and consequently also defined as art, while the same object in your own kitchen is just a beverage with a high calcium content. A fact that has been undisputed since Duchamp.

But Peter Anton's work goes beyond that. His works are a commentary on our relationship with food. Their size alone calls for analysis. How intense this analysis becomes correlates with existing personal or social relationships with food. His approach to the topic is so ironic and playful that nobody must feel offended. In this way, he allows space for unburdened contemplation.

Linda Traut, 2021

Peter Anton

“An artist usually does their best work when they focus on something they know about very well and have experience and knowledge about that subject matter. For me, this was food.”

Ein riesiges Eiscreme-Sandwich. Eine gigantische Biskuitrolle. Ein übergroßer Donut. Sie tanzen vor hellblauen Himmel, von zwei Händen in die Kamera gehalten. So präsentiert Peter Anton gerade fertiggestellte Werke auf seinem Instagram-Account. Das sagt bereits einiges über den

Bildhauer Peter Anton. Erstens: Er stellt sehr real aussehende, aber gigantische und nicht essbare Leckereien – Skulpturen – her. Zweitens: Er hat Freude an seinen Werken, er hat Humor und kann seine Werke mit einem Augenzwinkern sehen. Drittens: Obwohl er offensichtlich die sozialen Medien für sich einsetzen kann, steht er nicht im Fokus. Peter Anton stellt gerne sein Werk in den Vordergrund.

Der Bildhauer Peter Anton wurde 1963 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, geboren, studierte Kunst und hatte auch ursprünglich Bezüge zum Filmgeschäft. Auf diesen Hintergrund könnte sein Anstreben einer perfekten Illusion und auch die Inszenierung seiner Ausstellungen zurückgeführt werden. Seit 1991 werden seine Werke in verschiedenen Ausstellungshäusern präsentiert. Seine erste Einzelausstellung hatte er 1993 in der „Henri Gallery“ in Washington, DC. Darüber hinaus ist vor allem zu bestätigen, dass Peter Anton sich für Essen begeistern kann und dies auch mit der Welt teilt, was sich seit 30 Jahren in seinem Œuvre widerspiegelt.

 

Kunstwerke: Süßes oder Pikantes.

“I enjoy all kinds of food and treats. I was never a fussy eater. I eat a chocolate every night before bed. I grew up at a time when the entire family sat down for dinner. It was not only about eating great food that was presented beautifully it was also about the discussion we had around the table.”

Bekannt ist Peter Anton vor allem für seine gigantischen Pralinen, obwohl seine Palette eigentlich eine komplette Konditorei mitsamt Süßwarenabteilung umfasst. Durch seine Technik wirken die Objekte, die auch im Original eine glasierte Oberfläche aufweisen, besonders realistisch. In manchen Artikeln wird Anton daher gerne auch „candy artist“ oder „Candy Warhol“ genannt. Seine

Werkreihen umfassen sehr prominent Pralinen und Donuts, aber auch Eis in verschiedenen

Variationen, Kuchen und Torten, Lutscher, Fruchtgummi und Macarons, Zuckerherzen und Paradiesäpfel sowie unter anderem einen Schokoladenosterhasen. Seine Modelle stammen hauptsächlich aus den USA und manche Süßigkeit mag daher in Europa seine ikonische und nostalgische Wirkung nicht voll entfalten. Ein Beispiel dafür sind die Double Pops: ein Eis am Stiel mit zwei Stielen, die zum Teilen einladen. Entsprechend dieser Vorbilder wirken insbesondere die Farben sehr intensiv und grell. Insbesondere die Kuchenversionen in Pink und Türkis sind für europäische Augen eher ungewohnt. In dieser Lust an der Farbe liegt aber auch der Charme von Peter Antons Werken.

Die „pikanten“ Werke Peter Antons umfassen Spiegeleier, Schinken, Hamburger, Fisch, Sushi, Steak, Erdnüsse oder Pizza. Dazu kommen verschiedene Früchte – diese teilweise in Schokolade getunkt. Die Darstellung ist genau wie bei den Süßigkeiten übergroß und detailgetreu. Die herzhaften Modelle stehen den „süßen“ in nichts nach was Kalorienanzahl und auch

Anziehungskraft betrifft. Allerdings sind sie in ihrer Wirkung etwas verändert. Zum einen ist die Ästhetik eines rohen Steaks oder Fischs gewöhnungsbedürftiger als die eines Donuts, selbst ein perfektes Spiegelei oder gebratener Schinken sind in ihrer Oberfläche nicht so ansprechend wie glatter Zucker- oder Schokoladenguss. Zum anderen stellt sich hier auch stärker eine ethische Frage nach dem Konsum von tierischen Produkten, die in den letzten Jahren gesellschaftlich in den Vordergrund getreten ist.

 

Technik: Perfekte Illusion.

Die perfekte Illusion steht für Peter Anton im Vordergrund. Daher verwendete er auch viel Zeit, um seine eigene Technik zur Herstellung seiner Skulpturen zu perfektionieren. Den kompletten Schaffensprozess gibt er nicht preis, wohl auch um Nachahmungen zu vermeiden, jedoch zeigt er über die sozialen Medien gerne seine grundsätzliche Herangehensweise. Sein erster Schritt besteht in einer genauen Auseinandersetzung mit den Modellen. Dabei geht er über die Untersuchung mit Lupe und zahlreichen Geschmack- und Texturproben hinaus und beschäftigt sich auch mit der

Rezeptur des Modells. Diese genaue Auseinandersetzung ist die Basis für den Detailreichtum seiner Werke. Die Materialien variieren dabei entsprechend der Objekte. Harz, Metall, Holz und Lehm dienen als plastische Basis. Zur Formgebung bedient er sich dabei teilweise extra angefertigter Gussformen. Acryl- und Ölfarben führen die realistische Farbgebung herbei. Alle Einzelheiten werden von ihm selbst gefertigt wie beispielsweise auch die Papierhüllen der Pralinen, welche in dieser Größe nicht frei erhältlich wären.

Ausstellungen: Zwischen Kirmes und Tempel.

Die Besprechungen von Peter Antons Ausstellungen, insbesondere ihrer Eröffnungen, lesen sich wie ein Spektakel der Sinne. Die beiden bekanntesten Präsentationen sind die Ausstellungen in der New Yorker UNIX Gallery 2015 sowie auf der Art Basel Miami im Jahr 2012.

Die Art Basel in Miami, die US-amerikanische Ausgabe der Art Basel im Dezember, ist für alternative Kunstinstallationen bekannt. In diesen Rahmen passte auch die ungewöhnliche Präsentation von Peter Anton 2012. Sie lud die Besucher unter dem Titel „Sugar & Gomorrah“ zu einer Art Achterbahnfahrt ein. Wie auf einer Kirmes konnten jeweils zwei Besucher nebeneinander in den Gondeln Platz nehmen. In diesen wurden sie dann durch eine Themenwelt unter dem Thema „Sodom und Gomorrah“ gefahren, die gefüllt war mit „süßen“ Skulpturen sowie erotischen – wenn auch jugendfreien – Szenen, die von lebenden Modellen inszeniert wurden. Im Unterschied zu einem klassischen Galeriebesuch konnten die Besucher somit die Verweildauer vor den einzelnen Werken und Szenen nicht selbst bestimmen. Die Unterlegung mit Musik sowie die Aufmachung des gesamten Fahrgeschäfts betonte den Vergnügungscharakter – für kunstsinnige Kontemplation sollte hier kein Raum gelassen werden. 

Eine ähnlich spektakuläre Inszenierung, jedoch unter anderen Vorzeichen, präsentierte die UNIX

Gallery in New York. 2015 zeigte sie die Einzel-Ausstellung „The Foodhist Temple“ (Das Wort Foodhist als Wortspiel von Buddhist um einen zen-artigen Zustand im Bezug auf Essen zu beschreiben.). Das Erlebnis war hier ganz anders: um eine kontemplative Auseinandersetzung zu ermöglichen war die Galerie mit Teppichen und Kissen ausgelegt, Besucher mussten ihre Schuhe ausziehen, gedämpftes Licht sorgte für die besondere Stimmung. An roten Wänden, eingerahmt von goldenem Stuck, hingen die verschiedenen überdimensionalen Lebensmittel vom Sushi bis zur Pralinenschachtel.

In beiden Fällen inszeniert Peter Anton die Begegnung mit seinen Kunstwerken bzw. mit

Lebensmitteln als Ereignis. Für ihn repräsentieren sie die enge Beziehung, die Menschen zum Essen haben – als Lebens- und Genussmittel. Die Präsentation unterstreicht den humoristischen und ironischen Charakter und die emotionale Herangehensweise, die Peter Anton für seine Werke wählt.

Pop Art, Konsum & Verführung

“People are very passionate about food and the conversation can become heated at times just like talking about politics. I observed the powerful hold food has on us all and am always fascinated by this."

 

Insbesondere in seiner Präsentation „Sugar & Gomorrah“ von 2012 wird der Aspekt der Verführung deutlich. Nahezu nackte Körper und aufs köstlichste drapierte Süßigkeiten, auf die jeweils nur ein kurzer Blick zu erhaschen ist. Anton ist sich der anziehenden Wirkung seiner Werke bewusst und spielt auch damit. Seine plakativen Darstellungen stellen ihn für viele in die Tradition von Andy Warhol – und bezeichnen ihn als Candy Warhol. Eine Parallele ist sicher, dass das Motiv bekannt, anziehend und plakativ ist. Aber seine Werke ziehen den Besucher nicht nur durch das Motiv an, sondern auch mit ihrem Detailreichtum. Die Illusion ist so faszinierend, dass sie sowohl aus größerer Entfernung als auch aus der Nahansicht funktioniert. Seine Werke laden ein, genau hinzuschauen und das Material zu betrachten. Obwohl die Werke tatsächlich natürlich nicht essbar sind, wird zu einem ausführlichen „Konsum“ mit den Augen eingeladen. Und der Konsum ist auch letztlich das Thema. Angebissene Pralinen, fehlende Donuts und angefangene Eiscreme: diese Leckerbissen wurden mitten im Prozess des Konsums porträtiert. Peter Anton übt aber keine forcierte Konsumkritik, vielmehr schwelgt er selbst im Genuss, und seine Einzelausstellungen sind ein Fest der Sinne und eine Zelebrierung des Essens. Dennoch bringt er den Besucher in die Situation, sich mit diesem Prozess auseinanderzusetzen. Was macht der Anblick dieser Lebensmittel mit mir? Welche Emotionen werden ausgelöst? Dadurch macht er einen gedanklichen Prozess sichtbar, der im Alltag oft untergeht.

 

Die perfekte Illusion: Hyperrealismus.

Es sind vor allem die angefangenen Pralinenschachteln, die den Betrachter in ihren Bann schlagen. Die perfekte Glätte einer Werbeabbildung wird gestört durch einzelne leere Papiere oder sogar angebissene und verschmähte Stücke. Sie machen die Werke hyperrealistisch und erzählen eine

Geschichte. Warum wurden die angebissenen Pralinen wieder zurückgelegt? War es zu bitterer

Alkohol? Oder doch der plötzlich aufkommende Gedanke an die Kalorien? Die „verwendeten“ Werke lassen einen imaginären Konsumenten entstehen, zu dem man unwillkürlich eine Verbindung aufbaut. Dieser unbekannte Protagonist hat vielleicht ähnliche Gedanken, Gefühle und Gelüste beim Anblick der Pralinen gehabt. 

Peter Anton führt uns Altbekanntes vor Augen, vertraute Formen und Farben. Dadurch entwickelt der Betrachter eine sofortige Nähe zu den Werken. Indem der Betrachter nicht verunsichert wird in dem, was er sieht und erkennen zu glaubt, wird ihm eine Basis gegeben, sich mit den Werken weiter auseinanderzusetzen. Er kann sich an der Technik festhalten und das Werk mit dem Bekannten vergleichen. Und davon ausgehend können sich Fragen und Themen entwickeln. Peter Anton gibt dem Betrachter Sicherheit und einen niederschwelligen Zugang zu seinen Werken.

 

Kinderleicht? Demokratische Kunst.

Eine große Anzahl von Artikeln und Texten über die Werke von Peter Anton beinhaltet – meist direkt zu Anfang – eine Beschreibung der sinnlichen Eindrücke. Insbesondere dem Wunsch nach dem Verzehr der Kunstwerke. Was sicherlich keine typische Herangehensweise von Journalisten oder Kunsthistorikern an eine Werkbeschreibung ist. Gerade dieses verbindende Element steht jedoch exemplarisch für die ganz direkte sinnliche Rezeption der Werke. Einer Rezeption, der jeder zustimmen würde, ob mit kunsthistorischer Vorbildung oder als Laie. Selbst ein Kind – vielleicht gerade ein Kind – kann diese Wirkung nachvollziehen. Und darin besteht auch eine herausragende Qualität der Werke Peter Antons, die ihnen letztlich einen Platz in so vielen Sammlungen verschafft hat. Unabhängig von Perspektiven und Interpretationen sprechen seine Werke auf diese direkte und persönliche Art. Das ist was man unter niedrigschwelliger Kunst verstehen kann. Seine Werke setzen kein kunsthistorisches Vorwissen voraus. Man kann Duchamp oder Andy Warhol zur

Betrachtung hinzuziehen, aber man muss nicht. Seine Werke sind in ihren Motiven und ihrer Thematik leicht zu erkennen und die Wirkung sowie die Technik sind unumstritten. Das macht Peter Anton zu einem sehr demokratischen Künstler, dessen Werke für jeden zugänglich sind.

 

Gigantisch lecker: Von Alice und Charlie.

“Humor is one of the most important elements we have in order to cope and survive in this world.”

Die Größe der Werke Peter Antons sowie die Präsentation in seinen Einzelausstellungen lassen an Alice im Wunderland oder Charlie in der Schokoladenfabrik denken. Der Grund ist die Irritation durch die Größe, das Motiv und die perfekte Ausführung. Die Werke könnten auch Teil einer Realinszenierung von Alices Kaninchenbau sein. Unsere Perspektive wird plötzlich verändert. Sind wir klein oder ist das Objekt groß? Nach welchen Regeln funktioniert eine Welt, in der ein Eigelb so groß wie eine ganze Pfanne ist? Es ist eine kindliche Entdeckung mit den Augen eines Erwachsenen: altbekanntes wird so stark vergrößert, dass sich unwillkürlich andere Fragen stellen als beim Spiegelei in der eigenen Küchenpfanne. Dort wohlbekannt, hier im neuen Kontext plötzlich fremd – und gleichzeitig vertraut. Diese Prise Humor, die Peter Anton mit seinen Werken in die Kunstwelt bringt, entwickelt sich durch das „Was wäre wenn?“. Damit gibt er einen Denkanstoß, der unabhängig von Konsumkritik und Ernährungsbewusstsein funktioniert. Er nimmt die Betrachter an die Hand und vermittelt ihm das Gefühl, dass er genauso ist wie er, er teilt seine kindliche, ungetrübte Freude am Essen mit ihm. Die Farben, der Geschmack, der Geruch, die Textur, vielleicht auch die Nostalgie.

 

Vom Keks zur Kunst

Inzwischen haben sich die Werke Peter Antons in der Kunstwelt einen Namen gemacht und sind in renommierten Sammlungen vertreten. Dennoch wurden seine Werke zum Beginn seiner Karriere von Galerien abgelehnt. Das Paradox des Kunstmarkts findet sich hier wieder: einerseits der

Wunsch nach genuin Neuem, andererseits die Sicherheit des Altbewährten. Sicherlich standen die Galeristen zu Beginn vor der Frage: ist das Kunst? Im Nachhinein wird die Definition hier wie in vielen anderen Fällen schon allein durch die Präsentation und Rezeption im Kontext „Kunst“ festgelegt. Mit anderen Worten: ein Glas Milch würde auf einem Sockel in einer

Kunstgalerie als Kunstwerk rezipiert und in Folge auch als Kunst definiert, während der gleiche Gegenstand in der eigenen Küche nur ein Lebensmittel mit hohem Calciumgehalt ist. Eine Tatsache, die seit Duchamp unumstritten ist.

Aber Peter Antons Werk geht darüber hinaus. Seine Werke sind ein Kommentar zu unserem Verhältnis zu Lebensmitteln. Schon allein ihre Größe fordern eine Auseinandersetzung. Wie intensiv diese wird, hängt sicher auch mit der bestehenden persönlichen oder gesellschaftlichen Beziehung zu Nahrung zusammen. Seine Annäherung an das Thema ist dabei so ironisch und verspielt, dass sich niemand angegriffen fühlen wird. Dadurch gibt er der Auseinandersetzung einen unbelasteten Raum.

Linda Traut, 2021

 

 

 

CRITIQUE/ESSAY by Jane LeGrow, Lyman Allyn Art Museum


For Peter Anton, food goes beyond necessity and indulgence; it is a gateway to memory and emotion.  His oversized, hyperrealistic confections immediately surprise and delight, conjuring up childhood memories of frosty popsicles melting in the Summer sun and chalky candy hearts received on Valentine’s day.  Boxes of lavishly decorated chocolates come complete with bite marks.  Rows of donuts are punctuated by empty rings of glaze.  Birthday cakes with slices missing suggest a party happening just offstage.  Depicting intrinsically ephemeral objects – foods to be eaten, that melt or decay if unconsumed – his sculptures capture fleeting moments.

Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has called Anton’s work, “witty, funny, [and] transformative.”  His work has clear roots in Pop Art and builds on such works as Claes Oldenburg’s gigantic sculptures of common objects and Wayne Thiebaud’s depictions of commercialized desserts.  Here, Anton’s subjects are iconic American sweets, largely mass-produced and instantly recognizable.  They connect us at once to individual sensory memory and shared cultural identity.  The exaggerated scale and exacting detail both tease our senses and encourage exploration of our ideas about appetite, consumption, pleasure, overindulgence and even addiction.

The process of making a sculpture begins for Anton with a nearly reverent exploration of the food itself – its history, how it is made, and a close examination of how it tastes, feels, smells, and even crumbles.  Each artwork is painstakingly rendered over a period of weeks from a variety of materials, including plaster, resin, wood, metal, acrylic and oil paints, all carefully chosen to most realistically reproduce the textures and colors of the actual food.

“I strongly feel that different foods activate passions and emotions in people and profoundly connect to an individual’s memories and personal history,” Anton says.  His meticulous meditation on each ice cream bar and cherry cordial invites us to reconnect with our deeper selves and savor the emotions that these sweets stir up.

ESSAY / CRITIQUES

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