FRUIT AND VEGETABLE STAND
A solitary ramshackle fruit and vegetable stand is an uncommon site for New York City, belonging perhaps to another economy, place and time. The one I know, where I often buy bananas before teaching art history at LaGuardia Community College in the early mornings, is painted bright green, built from cheap wood, and found on the sidewalk perimeter of a parking lot of a mechanic’s shop, on the same block of MoMA PS1 and a diner that normally appears closed. The grocers, a terrific couple, only use it to sell produce on the weekdays since this part of Long Island City, still underdeveloped, has little foot traffic on the weekends. My repetitious commute during these 14-week semesters made me focus on it, in passing, as an apparatus to employ, to share its uniqueness with others. It became to me a site of transaction à la Manet, whose still lifes of commodities such as his infamous Bunch of Asparagus (1880), plucked from the market and painted as is, in a bunch, and sold, as a painting. Weeks later he begins to paint a solitary asparagus as change for the collector for his overpayment, or so the story goes.
I proposed the idea of using its structure as a temporary display stand for still life paintings made by friends who are painters or currently involved with painting. Each artist would choose a fruit or vegetable and render it from observation in their chosen medium. I asked for three to five versions of the selected fruit or vegetable so that the passersby could hypothetically “shop” for the best looking painting. I presented the works on a very nice Saturday in October, 2012 and acted the role of vendor. The prices were decided by the artists themselves and all the proceeds went to them. At times, small crowds gathered around the booth, drawing in the passersby, and many transactions were made. The performance/sale lasted two hours. Most works were sold. I soon packed up the remaining paintings, and left the fruit and vegetable stand-cum-booth as I found it. Green, rickety and out of use.