American bread is like canvas – an essentially incomplete object. It’s light as air; its appearance nondescript, and its flavor, well, nonexistent. It exists only as a complement to something else. For a foreigner, tasting, seeing, or holding American bread is all about experiencing the various things it isn’t – absences. Individual preferences will flavor the absence. I, for example, think that the slice is missing butter and jam – and it may be peanut butter for you. The problem is that this is an art object, and modern art has been making conflicting claims about ordinary objects. One day we are to find wonder in the mundane. Then, wonder is declared pretentious and the ordinary is what it is – trite and ignored. Either way, as an art object, the seemingly incomplete bread is actually complete, and absence of jam or peanut butter is an erroneous projection of our minds. But my vision refuses to cooperate. I want the jam. Jasper Johns once said: “I’ve always considered myself a very literal artist.” Is absence of jam literal enough?

Jasper Johns “Bread”, 1969. Embossed lead relief.


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