© 2022 NPR Illinois
Stand with the Facts
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Illinois Issues
Archive2001-Present: Scroll Down or Use Search1975-2001: Click Here

Painting with Spaghetti

Installation view of Scott Reeder’s Untitled, 2011, MCA Chicago. Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta, Chicago|Berlin. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Commission
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
/
Museum of Contemporary Art

Scott Reeder paints ice cream cones that watch themselves melt in a mirror, depicts cigar-smoking fruit and crafts art made of spaghetti.

“All of my work is kind of humorous, deals with humor in different ways. My paintings come from conversations I have with people or funny or interesting things that I read,” says Reeder, an artist and associate professor at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Reeder’s work is on exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago until January 24. His paintings have evocative titles such as Money in Bed, Symmetrical Pirate and Panda Protest

“A lot of times the title comes first and then I make the image, which is the opposite of a lot of artists — they make an image, then decide what to call it. I usually come up with a title that evokes an interesting image and then try to see if it makes an interesting painting,” he says.

If a painting is too planned out ahead of time, it might lose its interest. “I think the best paintings are the ones where something unexpected happens from point A to point B. You need a point A to get started, but sometimes it’s most interesting when I surprise myself along the way,” Reeder says. 

The main feature of Reeder’s exhibit is a 14x25 foot expressionist painting that took 50 lbs. of spaghetti and 48 hours to make. It’s the largest piece he has ever painted. 

Some paintings look funny just looking at them, but the spaghetti ones might look like “big serious abstract paintings,” he says. Once it’s understood how they are made, the joke comes in. It’s like a delayed punch line, he says. 

Scott Reeder, Sisyphus Ice Cream, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy.
Credit Museum of Contemporary Art
/
Museum of Contemporary Art
Scott Reeder, Sisyphus Ice Cream, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy.

  His paintings are another take on the drip and splatter paintings created by Jackson Pollock during the 50’s and 60’s, but with a little bit of poking at their seriousness, he says. Pollock challenged what constitutes a painting, he says. 

Reeder’s work is similar to the end result of children painting pasta, making potato prints or collages, but on a larger scale. “It’s like if one of those kids just kept working for another 20 years and got really serious about it,” he says.

The Museum of Contemporary Art describes his work on it’s website: “Reeder’s faux-naïve approach complicates the gravitas of his subject, namely the history of painting and the macho, academic nature of much of that history, with saccharine colors, atypical materials, and oddball subjects. At the same time, his work challenges established tastes and values.”

Unless you have an education or background in art, that statement might be challenging to understand, he says. 

“What I think it means to me, is art used to be a little more accessible to the average person. … Some frescos and the early paintings were made for people that couldn’t read. It was a way for people to tell a story visually, but it was a story that everyone knew. It was sort of like the Hollywood of the time. It was very accessible,” Reeder says.. 

“My idea is to sort of make a bridge, to make it more accessible. Humor is a way to reach people and get them interested in art whether or not they have a master’s degree in art history. There are other layers of my work for people that do have that background, there’s something for them too, but I want it to be more inviting or understandable…Humor is one way I do that,” Reeder says. 

Reeder hopes that people will look at art in a different way and broaden their definition of what art can be after viewing his paintings. 

“I think there is an idea that art across the board is this serious endeavor. Not that I don’t think it’s serious and work really hard on it, (but) I think artists are just like any other people, and if you are a funny person, then your art can be funny too. My work I think is like an open book. I’m not a real secretive or calculating kind of person. Usually, I just say what I think and deal with the consequences. And I think that is how my work is too.”

Scott Reeder’s Untitled (installation-in-progress), October 10, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta, Chicago|Berlin. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Commission.
Credit Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago / Museum of Contemporary Art
/
Museum of Contemporary Art
Scott Reeder’s Untitled (installation-in-progress), October 10, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta, Chicago|Berlin. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Commission.

To his critics Reeder says, “Just relax. People act like this stuff is life or death. There are more important things to worry about. Art is just a luxury … it’s a gift. People get too dogmatic about what they believe about this visual art and it’s always a little bit crazy to me.”

Reeder has shown his work internationally in contemporary art galleries in London and Italy. At home, his work has been shown in galleries in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The show at MCA is the biggest he has ever done and will further expose his work to an international audience, he says. 

“MCA is a great institution, so it’s this vote of confidence. It’s a big contemporary art museum for a really big city. If you are doing something there it is sort of a stamp of approval that means something.”

Illinois Issues, December 2011

Related Stories