Virtual Gallery: Alcohol

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Curated by Deligina Prifti




Alcohol is one of those words that carries a personal correlation, lights up a recent or long forgotten memory . Mothers putting a homemade liqueur in their cakes, friends stealing beers from beach bars, late night confessions or anxious dates made soother with a glass of wine, or dizziness after two shots of tsipouro at a Cretan village festival in August. When it comes to alcohol there are so many references throughout the history of humankind which almost match the countless moments of its consumption. As the writer William Faulkner once said “ Civilization begins with distillation”. A civilized society embraces the animalistic instincts as crucial balancing aspects of the human nature, a nature that is to say transformative, that includes both divine and cannibalistic potential. Alcohol stands in between this “transformation” as its carrier, its medium. A medium that can be both enjoyable and uncontrollable.


Alcohol is in that instance a subject of study and ponder with the help of this Virtual Gallery. We are grateful to all the distinguished guests, or co-curators if I say so myself, for trusting us and sharing with us some of their favorite artworks which relate to the subject of alcohol. A journey through the art is often quite an unexpected journey, no matter how old or recent a the artworks are and it is for that reason that Virtual Gallery has come to existence.

Please do wander around.





Kassiani Benou

Communications Manager

at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens ( EMST )








a. Garry Winogrand, Metropolitan Opera, New York,1951.


"The world through Winogrand's black and white lenses is extraordinary. He was a street photographer, mainly in New York, capturing the american everyday life. In this picture he shots a couple, who glamorously and playfully enjoys a cocktail in the Metropolitan Opera". Benou, K.


Curator's insight:

In 1984 Garry Winogrand died leaving behind 6,500 roll of unprocessed film. His prolific production is indicative of his photographical legacy. Winogrand’s iconic snaps are odes to the vibrancy of life in the streets of New York. His photos pulsate with the clumsiness and imperfection in human nature making the lack of technical precision a conscious stylistic choice.


b. Andy Warhol, The original bottles that Warhol designed for the Absolut Warhol campaign, 1986



" In 1986 Absolute Vodka commissioned Andy Warhol to redesign their bottles .It was part of a larger campaign in order to affiliate themselves with the contemporary art scene. Pop art then becomes an unmissable element of the modern and contemporary era".

Benou, K.



Argyris Xafis

Actor



a. Max Hooper Schneider, Blood Alcohol Level CH95X, 2014.

b. Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas,1656.




" I chose these two artworks to be observed as a dipole rather than each one individually. On the one hand, the work of Schneider is sufficiently self-explanatory, meaning that the alcohol becomes a projection, a muse. On the other, I chose Velazquez because apart from being one of the greatest painters who ever joined the arts Pantheon, it was believed to be an alcoholic. Of course, we do not know in which extend these vices influenced his work,

but it is a rather interesting thought to imagine that his acute sight coexisted with a drunken body”. Xafis, A.



Curator’s insight:

In the history of art there a few paintings as emblematic as Velazquez Las Meninas. No matter how tempting it might be, we shall not focus on the historical and stylistic references, but rather on its contemporary effect. We can see the painting as a study of space, of physical and mental space and, most of all as the “space of the gaze”. Velazquez decorates the room with mythological paintings, an attribute to his icon Peter Paul Rubens. Paintings overflowing with profound emotions and traceable scenarios - with all the figures looking at each other. But where do the people in Las Meninas look at? Are they looking at us? At him? And how long have they been looking? Are they looking now? We move simultaneously towards and away from them, whilst we try to decode their gaze. How do we look back in eyes that are already watching and how easy it to make assumptions by a lifelike stare in a painting? Or in life.






Alexandra Masmanidi

Photographer / Visual Artist









a. Alexandra Masmanidi, 2017.


" The dionysiac fluster reconciles humans to their human nature.

Τhe Ritual shutters the principles of individualism. Instinct fights Reason and the primal impulses rise". Masmanidi, A.


Curator’s insight:

The ambiguity between the apollonian and dionysian Self has been a constant philosophical ponder since antiquity. The most known theory is the one of Nietzsche, where in his book The Birth of Tragedy he became enraptured with the god of wine and ecstasy, depicting him as the ultimate tragic figure.




b. Aegli Drakou, A night I don't really remember, 2017

" This photograph is my proof that I was there on this night which I don't really remember and maybe I had fun. Yes, surely I had fun! I must have had. Oh, what a night we must have lived"! Masmanidi, A.


c. Ismini Sotiraki Black, Untitled, 2017.





I went , Kavafis Konstantinos (Poems 1897- 1933)


I did not restrain myself. I set myself

entirely free and I went. To the pleasures

that were half real, half turning around

inside my mind, I went to the illuminated night.

And I drank strong wines, like the ones

those who are unafraid of carnal delights drink.







Alexandros Kouris

Owner of NISSOS Beer











a. Le Corbusier, Guitare Verticale, 1920.



" It would not a far claim to state that Charles-Edouard Jeanneret ,or Le Corbusier as he is widely known, offered an original aesthetic perception, unprecedented amongst his contemporaries. An architect, painter, designer and writer whose painting casted away the cubist tradition and came up with purism, an osmosis of architectural and visual principles".

Kouris, A.



b. Beer, by Charles Bukowski, from Love is A Mad Dog From Hell (1920-1994).


I don’t know how many bottles of beer I have consumed while waiting for things to get better I dont know how much wine and whisky and beer mostly beer I have consumed after splits with women- waiting for the phone to ring waiting for the sound of footsteps, and the phone to ring waiting for the sounds of footsteps, and the phone never rings until much later and the footsteps never arrive until much later when my stomach is coming up out of my mouth they arrive as fresh as spring flowers: “what the hell have you done to yourself? it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!”

the female is durable she lives seven and one half years longer than the male, and she drinks very little beer because she knows its bad for the figure.

while we are going mad they are out dancing and laughing with horney cowboys.

well, there’s beer sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles and when you pick one up the bottle fall through the wet bottom of the paper sack rolling clanking spilling gray wet ash and stale beer, or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m. in the morning making the only sound in your life.

beer rivers and seas of beer the radio singing love songs as the phone remains silent and the walls stand straight up and down and beer is all there is.



Curator's insight:

It would have been a refreshing notion to include poetry and literature in exhibitions to serve both as descriptions and works of art themselves. In this instance, the poem of the American novelist Charles Bukowski resembles a cinematic monologue. A voice message that introduces a scene. Something happened or is about to happen when a man struggles with this alcoholic despair. The scene is set, just like an Edward Hopper, 7 am ,1948 painting. Looking in this picture like an opening movie scene accompanied by Bukowski’s words our eyes navigate up to the open windows, eager to see the shadow of this man in despair.








Pavlina Voulgaraki

Musician










a. Andry Warhol, After the Party, 1979.


" Andy Warhol was a famous and rather notorious party goer and party starter. In this print he depicts the messy, drunk reality of one of his nights out". Voulgaraki, P.


Curator’s insight:

Paintings depicting lavish banquets, fresh food and expensive liquors are known in the history of art as still life and can be traced back in ancient civilizations. This genre traditionally entices the senses by create the illusion of meals or drinks that are ready to be consumed. Warhol's aim tends to convey the exact opposite sensation: a vain account of our glutinous nature. Empty remains like the glasses and the bottles correspond to the evaporating and instant trait of alcohol itself.



b. Pablo Picasso, Drunk woman is tired, 1902.



" An absinthe drinker sleeps before us . Ηer posture is still leaning towards the empty glass as if to console the woman even in her sleep”. Voulgaraki, P.


Curator's insight:

This painting belongs to Picasso's blue period (1901-1904) while the artist was struggling with depression. In this portrait, the empty glass containing absinthe does not have the role of an "intensifier" of emotions but rather that of a sedative company numbing the harshness of depressive emotions.The woman is literally leaning towards her alcoholic consolation,as to almost thank it for easing her to sleep.Picasso was a legendary drinker. In fact his last words were said to be" Drink to me,drink to my health,you know I can't drink anymore".In 1973 Dustin Hoffman challenged Paul McCartney to come up there and then with a song at a dinner in Jamaica by quoting to him Picasso's famous words.McCartney did just that and the song "Picasso's last words" or "Drink to Me" became track on his album "Band on the Run".





Fondas Tazes

Bar Manager at Izakaya Cairo & Mezcal Cairo / Co-owner of Dos Agaves in Athens














a. William Hogarth, Beer Street, 1751.



b.William Hogarth, Beer Street and Gin Lane, 1751.


"Both prints were part of a national 18th century campaign that aimed to seize the vast consumption of gin throughout the United Kingdom. Along with steep taxes and selling prohibitions the government promoted the consumption of beer as a milder and typically British alternative far more “beneficial” than the catastrophic gin. Ironically, a few years earlier it was the parliament who voted on banning brandy trades with France and introduced the Dutch “jenever” or gin as it is widely known today. Whether I agree on how much more dangerous “hard liquor” is to beer , raises serious questions both on personal judgement and ,of course, on social and economical factors that have to be taken into consideration". Tazes,F.


Curator’s insight:

Traces of beer consumption can be found as early as the roman occupation in 54 B.C..Every since then, the brewing of beer became embedded in English gastronomy not only for alcoholic, but also for calorific reasons and by the 17th century the beer export was immensely profitable. Here, we zoom into the beer street as the jolly counterpoint of the corrosive and sinful gin lane. Hogarth’s cheerful utopia praises the cοnscious and wise choice of beer in the faces of earnest and hard working people, as they pause from the demands of their everyday life. The wasted vulgarity which tends to shock is viewed almost in a sinful perspective, as soon as the eye observes the good-humoured and cheery beer drinkers. By analyzing it through a political viewpoint, it was a straightforward propagandistic attempt, which circulated massively and there are records of its exposition even to students by their schoolmasters.


Curator's choice


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,Young sick Bacchus, 1593.



In a squalid room at an infamous poor neighborhood in Rome a young artist, probably suffering from jaundice, portrays himself at that state. Green hues on his skin and throughout the surface of the canvas, wandering eyes and an ageless void behind him reflect an ambiguous image of himself. Half human half god, he becomes Dionysus or Bacchus, the god of wine, theatre, dance and sensuality. We can argue that he is the true god of transformation- not physical but mental one. The god of the ecstatic state. Alcohol was always regarded as a getaway, a semi-conscious stepping-stone between reality and fantasy where man experiences an introvert metamorphosis. Probably, Caravaggio depicted exactly this opposition. By looking at the brutally scrutinizing mirror, he questions what he sees and how ambivalent he feels in the hands of liquor. Bacchus is a man and every man can possibly turn into Bacchus as long as they remember that without a sense of this temporary state, an ever existing void of oblivion and addiction lies right behind him”.

Prifti, D.


_________________________________________


Credits


1. a. Metropolitan Opera, Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel

Gallery, San Francisco / b. Absolut Vodka campaign,Andy Warhol, courtesy of the Andy

Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

2. a. Blood Alcohol Level CH95X, Max Hooper Schneider, courtesy of

artsy.net / b. Las Meninas, Diego Velazquez, courtesy of wikipedia.

3. Alexandra Masmanidi. Courtesy of the artist.

4. Guitare verticale (1ere version), Le Corbusier, courtesy of Le

Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris / b. Seven a.m. , Edward Hopper, courtesy of

edwardhopper.net

5. After the party ,Andy Warhol, courtesy of revolve Warhol gallery/

b. Drunk woman is tired, Pablo Picasso, courtesy of wikiart.com

6. Beer street and Gin Lane + Beer Street, William Hogarth, courtesy

of Wikipedia.

7. Young sick Bacchus, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, courtesy of wikiart.com.





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