At Peter Freeman, Brassaï and Francis Alÿs Test Modern Art’s Media

THE DAILY PIC: Artists at either end of Modernism's history play with its forms.


THE DAILY PIC (#1347): Marble, bronze, encaustic, oils—and toothpaste and chewing gum. Two works in a group show at Peter Freeman gallery in New York trace a partial history of some new, very modern artistic media.

There’s Brassaï’s wonderful page of “involuntary sculptures,” from a 1933 issue of Minotaure, that presents a casual squeeze of toothpaste as one of the many “morphological accidents” of modern art.

And then there’s the Francis Alÿs slideshow from 1994-97 (see one image from it below), which revisits the same idea, this time with chewing gum acting as readymade abstraction. (Preceded, of course, by Hannah Wilke’s great, more volitional achievements in the medium of Chiclets, Trident and Juicy Fruit.)

One question that this photographic work brings up: Does the art reside in the toothpaste and gum – with tube and tongue replacing chisel and brush – or in the shutter’s snapping? Both Brassaï and Alÿs adopt a documentary, just-the-facts-ma’am approach that argues for the former. But that, of course, is itself an aesthetic decision that implicates them as the true authors of the art on view.


(Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London, and Peter Freeman, Inc., New York)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.