This work consists of four identical black and white photographs stitched together with thread into a two by two grid. Trails of thread are left hanging at the ends of the joins of the images. The photograph depicts a printed sign for ‘Sunday Brunch’, framed and hung from a wooden beam above an area covered in dark shadow. The sign indicates that at this diner or restaurant Sunday brunch costs $7.95 and includes ‘ribs, eggs, grits, hot biscuits, champagne, mimosa, Bloody Mary, Western dance instruction...’. The photograph was shot at an angle so that the sign and brickwork do not appear straight but lean downwards to the right. In the bottom left of the photograph, in the obscured area, the word ‘Open’ suggests that underneath the sign is an entrance, although a door cannot be seen.
Between 1982 and 1987 Andy Warhol made over five hundred unique stitched photograph works each comprising several prints of the same image arranged into a grid. The images used as the basis for the stitched photographs were all taken by Warhol, who took photographs almost every day from 1976 onwards using several 35 mm cameras. When he began making the stitched photograph works, Warhol selected images from among the thousands he had amassed. The stitched photograph works feature a broad array of subjects including pictures of still lifes, celebrities, buildings and monuments. Sunday Brunch is one of a number of Warhol’s stitched photograph works featuring signs, which range from the handwritten, such as Cough 1986 (Tate AR00292), to the more formal or commercial, such as No Parking 1986 (Tate AR00296).
Food is a recurrent subject in the work of Andy Warhol. His early illustration work includes images such as Ice Cream Dessert 1959 (Tate AR00255) while the artist is perhaps best known for his screenprints of cheap and basic food items including Campbell’s soup cans and bottles of Coca Cola. In addition to producing the Velvet Underground and Nico album (1967), he also created its cover art: an image of a banana that, on the original vinyl pressing, could be ‘peeled’. He continued to produce images of food and drink throughout the latter years of his career, for instance, his Perrier screenprints (such as Tate AR00405, made in 1983), or his paintings based on signs, including Hamburger 1985–6 (Tate AR00233). Warhol’s own favourite food was candy. As Warhol’s biographer Wayne Koestenbaum writes:
his mother gave him candy bars as reward for every page completed in a colouring book. As an adult, he continued to dote on sweets. Tom Wolfe reports Andy refusing food at society dinner parties and declaring, “Oh, I only eat candy”; after he was shot in 1968, and could, for a time, only tolerate liquids, he would retreat to the restaurant Serendipity 3 on East Sixtieth Street and nurse a Frozen Hot Chocolate.
(Koestenbaum 2001, p.17.)
Warhol’s intention in making this particular work is not known. As art historian William Ganis notes, many of the images selected by Warhol and his assistant Christopher Makos for the stitched photograph works were chosen primarily for their formal, graphic qualities (Ganis 2004, pp.26–7). The repetition of the photograph in this work might be said to reflect the ubiquity of the American diner, the widespread availability of basic food staples across the United States, or even the repetitive nature of working in a diner. The appeal to Warhol may have been in the mixture of somewhat incongruous elements: food, alcohol, and the oddly specific ‘Western dance instruction’. Alternatively, this work could be said to relate to Warhol’s fascination with money: his confounding of the distinction between art and business, his numerous works that feature currency or include prices as part of their content, and his routine documenting in his diaries of his daily expenditures.
Pat Hackett (ed.), The Andy Warhol Diaries, London 1989.
Wayne Koestenbaum, Andy Warhol, London 2001.
William V. Ganis, Andy Warhol’s Serial Photography, Cambridge 2004.
University of Edinburgh
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