While our human need to eat is universal, as a culture we hunger for something beyond food itself, thus heightening the significance of the meal. The Modern Meal: Sustenance through Ritual investigates visual representations of the meal as a ritual of consumption connected to issues of place, resources, and social organization. The installation is divided into three sections, each structured around a duality—“Place | Displacement,” “Plenitude | Scarcity,” and “Freedom | Regimentation”—that highlights the spectrum of experiences, individual and shared, operating within different artistic depictions of the meal.
Drawing primarily from the Kemper Art Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition includes works by such artists as John Baldessari, Max Beckmann, and Sharon Lockhart that probe themes of social equality, identity, globalization, and food availability. Many of the artworks represent the tension between real and imagined meal spaces, while others reveal the effects that labor, marginalization, and war can have on the very character of the meal. Together they suggest the complexity of this apparently simple social form.
Exhibition overview from museum website