Fruitful Set-Up

Stash the choco-milk behind the plain. Sideline potato chips and snack bars and push forward the fresh fruit in baskets (not steel bins). Ask for cash in hand if they insist on going for the gooey dessert… Making kids make healthier choices in the school lunch queue is all about full-on stealth, it seems. As adults we’re subjected to similar tricks of the food trade in the supermarket and on outings to cafes and restaurants. But now it’s kids who are coming in for the subtle sustenance treatment. Last week the US Department of Agriculture announced a new initiative: $2 million to get inside a kid’s head in the federal school lunch program. Food behavior scientists will gauge how get a child to stick a carrot on its tray and then actually eat the darned thing.

Jamie Olivier did something similar and single-handed in the UK with his School Dinners program, aiming to oust mountains of frozen turkey twizzlers and french fries and replace them with vegetable rich, healthful and appetizing options.

Our clean and bright canvas from Roy Lichtenstein here is heaving with the kind of eye-appeal that I imagine is successful in getting someone to chomp down on a mellon. It’s a classic image from him, instantly reminding of comic-strip cartoons and advertising. The American Lichtenstein (1923 – 1997) is of course renowned as an icon of Pop art, a personal painting bent that’s rumored to have begun in the early 1960s when one of his kids chirruped “I bet you can’t paint as good as that!” pointing at a comic.

This Fragmented Painting of Lemons and a Melon on a Table from 1973 has the hallmarks of his style: it’s magnified to zooming up-closeness and uses the kind of garish, in-your-face colors and bold unrelenting outlines that popular images do. Tell-tale too are the striking parallel lines that mimic in their flat and regular repetitions mass-produced printing processes.

This is a kind of Pop parody of high-art, dragging down to earth the still-life genre. Lichtenstein started taking the michael like this in the mid 60s: the swathe of material to the left, the cropped table top and the scattered fruits are all things we find familiar from the still-life tradition. But then it’s here, scrubbed clean and flat, presented in an almost unsettling, deadpan manner. The ‘fragmented’ corner to the right conjures old art but at the same time suggests how sound and indestructible this picture is. And seriously, has anyone thought that this kind of bright, confident image might be just the thing for making a comic-crazed kid pick up a piece of fruit?