Jay Batlle’s “Epicurean” paintings, drawings, and sculptures take the habits of the gourmet as a source of inspiration and social commentary. Batlle belongs to a generation of American artists who have responded to the precepts of minimalism and conceptualism. These artists aim to recreate the image and the social process in art, providing a channel for imaginary and everyday experience and forcing academic conventions to confront mass culture. The artist asks: What is the true meaning of art, getting to the top of the social economic ladder or having enough to eat?
A skilled chef as well as an artist, Batlle treats his art much like a recipe, with careful preparation and a methodical process. His layered compositions often incorporate images and text from the food section of publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Times or from pieces of stationery from restaurants around the world, as well as fragments of recipes, sketches, photographs, and other found objects. The resulting works, finished off with drips, coffee grounds, wine, and other food stains, seem to be both a critique of dining decadence and also a celebration of the preparation and consumption of food across cultures.
Through his poignant and witty paintings, drawings, sculptures, and performances, Jay Batlle explores “the good life”—success, fortune, and an abundance of sensual pleasures—and the gulf that exists between this idealized life and the reality of our own. As he explains: “Even if it’s idealistic, or romantic, my work needs a pathos … an urgency, a problem.” For Batlle, this source is humanity’s futile aspirations to a life that we ultimately cannot attain, which he expresses in his work through recurrent images of women, elegant soirees, luxury brands, booze, food, and money. In his ongoing “The Stationery Series,” for example, he enlarges pieces of stationery from luxury hotels and restaurants and fills them with humorous, doodle-like images of limply sexualized cocktail glasses, thoroughbred dogs, bubble baths, and naked women.
“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity,
than the discovery of a new star.”