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Friday, August 19, 2016

Pizza Art

Pizza, 2011, Tom Brown
Can you remember the first time you ever tasted pizza? For me, the year was about 1956, I was around eleven at the time. My aunt and uncle brought us a sample. Naturally it was cold, and back then had few toppings, probably just sauce and cheese. My first impression was catsup on bread. From there we graduated to Chef Boy-ar-dee (parmesan cheese only). I think I was in college before I ever tasted an authentic pizzeria, pizza sometime in the mid-1960s. Despite my relatively late introduction to this gourmet snack, pizza was not really a new item at the time. The first pizzeria in the U.S. opened in New York City in 1905. Before that it goes back about a thousand years. Although American food manufacturers now have pizza pretty much down to a science, originally, it was something of an art form, at least insofar as all Italian culinary items bear that trait.
Passover pizza, topped with lamb and bitter herbs.
Not from the Pisa Cathedral...
Naples, perhaps.
Before I go on, let me debunk a few myths regarding art and pizza. First pizza did not originate in Pisa, Italy. Although there are ancient references to it as early as around the 10th-century in central Italy, most food scholars agree that what we consider pizza today origin-ated in and around Naples around 1800, give or take a decade or two. Second, there's no truth to the rumor that Leonardo originally depicted pizza as the main course in his Last Supper (unleavened, of course with lamb rather than sausage). Equally false is the old wives' tale that Mona Lisa was smiling because the Pizza Hut delivery boy had just ar-rived. The Mona Lisa was painted about 1505. Pizza Hut wasn't founded until 1958. And finally, the stained glass window (right) is not from the Pisa Cathedral.

Marilyn by Domenico Crolla, Glasgow, U.K.
Postmodern art has a sense of humor, often sharp, irreverent, sensuous, sometimes even sexual. It's both fun and funny. Thus the doughy, cheesy, savory, spice-laden, calorie-laden pastry would seem to be the perfect content for such art. I don't know if artist Tom Brown (top) makes and bakes a decent pizza, but he certainly paints delectably. More than that, though, in recent years the pizza has also become an art medium, even capable of rendering portraits bearing a recognizable likeness to celebrities, past, present, and future, both known and unknown. Who could resist devouring a pizza with the likeness of Marilyn Monroe (above) or Pop artist Andy Warhol (below). Okay, maybe I could bring myself to forego Warhol.

Andy Warhol, Domenico Crolla.
Another humorous approach to art and pizza involves rewriting the history of art as seen in a take-off on Salvador Dali's 1931, Persistence of Memory (below) and the Pieter Brueghel (the elder) painting The Peasant Wedding (below Dali) from 1568. Dali, at least would probably enjoy the joke. Brueghel? Who knows?

Maybe we should combine the two and call it
"The Memory of Pizza."
This one we might call the "Peasant Pizza Wedding." Note the
sign in the back. Maybe Pizza Hut is older than they're telling us.
The pizza has also found its way into wall murals and politics, as seen in the visage of GOP Presidential candidate, Donald Trump on one of Crolla's pizzas. Hillary Clinton apparently isn't well-known enough to get her own pizza. She'll have to be content in just eating them (politically correctly, of course, without a fork).

Careful, Hillary, don't drop any on the pantsuit.
A pizza wall a pizzeria, of course.
The nice thing about pizza art is you don't have to be an expert artist to tackle this tasteful art form, as seen in the Octopus pizza (below). Octopus as a pizza topping? I'll pass.

Octopizza? Be sure to count the arms when
creating this work of art.

Pizza ovens usually work best,
500 degrees for five to ten minutes.


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