Before we discuss Wynwood resident Jason Galbut's Restaurant, a behemoth painting hanging right in the middle of the esteemed Saatchi Gallery in London until the end of May, why don't we indulge in a quick game of "I Spy?" Can you find the fish made of French fries? How about the smattering of lollipops? The porcelain teapot? If you caught those right away, bravo. But even you Where's Waldo aficionados would benefit from taking time to dig deep into this 8-foot square, heaping work of art.
"I like to create something you'll really spend time looking at," Galbut explained. "My work is fundamentally concerned with how I can include more, and more, and more. I think that the amount we have in our country and perhaps the ideas of excess and indulgence are what this painting talks about. How we are concerned with the idea of having so much and wanting to consume and when does it stop."
Though he began the piece in New York after dining at the Four Seasons, he said the lavish culture of Miami, his hometown, helped inspire a great deal of the painting: "There are very contemporary elements of indulgence and extremes of quick satisfaction... kind of an icing. It kind of reminds me of South Beach."
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He estimates the entire work took about six months to create and mentioned another inspiration, a topic that Miami's chefs often lament: "Everyone's so involved with what's the newest restaurant. It starts to feel like so much! You throw away the wrapper because the next one is new. Experience is like candy; tomorrow it might be gone." But his painting also celebrates the joy food brings as it helps humans appreciate our environment and its important role as nourishment.
Galbut's eyes, reminiscent of those Mint Cooler Brach's candies many of us used to steal from the supermarket, darted from quadrant to quadrant as he explained some of the items featured on the canvas and how they were strategically placed. "Each patch stands on its own," he said, "but they all need each other to succeed." Also hidden among the cutlery, table accoutrements, and comfort foods are animals (fish, dogs, birds and cat parts), American icons (Mickey Mouse, Kate Moss, Marilyn Monroe), and myriad symbols of excess.
It's a piece that can easily appeal to most. Especially those of us hungry for... well, just about anything. "I'm not making art for a tiny little audience," he claimed. "I want my art to speak to everyone."
Fans of Galbut's work can check out his website or see some of his paintings hanging in Florida International University's Green Library. Those who can tell the difference between a paintbrush and a Twizzler can also take a painting class taught by Galbut at FIU.