Object Oriented: Still Lifes from GRAM’s Collection

Apr 20, 2023 — Aug 19, 2023

Object Oriented: Still Lifes from GRAM’s Collection explores the creative possibilities of one of art’s most fundamental genres through works in the museum’s permanent collection. 

A basket of fruit, a bouquet of flowers, a pile of books, or a bowl of cereal – though they may seem commonplace, everyday objects have captured artists’ attention for centuries. These objects can evoke a mood, demonstrate an artist’s skill, or remind us of life’s fleeting beauty. The term still life” describes a work of art that shows inanimate objects from the natural or man-made world. This open-ended definition makes it an incredibly diverse genre, which is one reason it has endured as a significant mode of artistic expression from ancient times to the present day. 

There are numerous reasons artists create still lifes. They may wish to play with composition – the perspective and arrangement of objects in the picture plane – or experiment with different techniques. For some artists the objects within a still life take on symbolic or personal meaning. For others, the specific objects depicted are unimportant, they are simply vehicles for capturing color, light, and mood. 

Beginning with Louis Moillon’s Fruit from the 17th century and spanning through the present day, this exhibition consists of 40 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper from GRAM’s permanent collection. These include works by artists from the early 20th century, including Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Michigan artists Mathias Alten and Helen Steketee, as well as Pop artists from the 1960s, such as Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann, and contemporary artists including Carol Wax, Alex Katz, and Stephen Frykholm. The works feature classic subjects, like fruit, flowers, vases, and other decorative items, as well as unexpected subjects like an accordion, television, or a glossy, crumpled food wrapper.