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 Stefan Roloff  (1953 - )

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Lived/Active: Germany      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
The Last Breakfast
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Heritage Auctions:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Ted Pillsbury, the Renaissance scholar and Director of the Kimbell Art Museum, who lived in Texas and loved a good laugh, doubtless simply just had to have this work by German artist Stefan Roloff when he encountered it on a trip to New York in October 2001. The Last Breakfast spoofs Giotto's famous Last Supper of 1300-5, a scene from the magnificent proto-Renaissance fresco cycle he painted for the Arena Chapel in Padua. (Giotto's commission came from a money lender, Enrico Scrovegni, whom scholars argue built and decorated this religious structure to atone for his usury, which was a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.)

Instead of a modest meal of unleavened bread, Roloff shows Giotto's Christ and his disciples feasting on all sorts of leavened, salted, and heavily processed grain-based products from a modern grocery store including Ritz crackers, Quaker oatmeal, Minute Rice, Gerber and Beech-Nut baby cereal, Nabisco graham crackers, and Barnum's animal crackers as well as some Skippy peanut butter, Campbell and Swanson soups, Welch's grape jelly and and Hellman's mayonnaise.

Ted's own biography may have also played into this acquisition in a subtle way: he was the great-grandson of the founder of the milling giant, Pillsbury Milling Co., now a division of General Mills.  Truthfully, Ted didn't know a whole lot about most forms of popular culture, and usually missed most references to current celebrities, sit-coms, fads, musicians, and the like in general conversational banter. It just wasn't his thing to read tabloids, although like many things about Ted, this issue is paradoxical, too: once something in pop culture caught his interest, he would become intellectually riveted, wanting to know every single thing about it until he was satisfied he had the whole story.  On the other hand, modern consumerism utterly fascinated him, because it was intricately connected with politics and economics, two topics of enduring interest to him. 

As such, Ted was always amused by the inflection of high and low culture, and found juxtapositions of old and new fun and enchanting. He loved their ridiculousness, silliness, conceptual messiness, and absurdity. This mixed media collage by Roloff certainly would have held great appeal to him in this regard.

With his infamous eye, he would have spotted and appreciated the many liberties Roloff took with Giotto's famous painting of Christ's last meal: the artist changed the square format composition into a longitudinal one, accentuating the length of the table; showed an incongruous number of apostles (19 rather than 12) by duplicating a number of them to populate the longer table--including two Judases (!); and virtually obscured John, Christ's favorite (leaning over him at the far left end of the table), with a massive Quaker Oats box. Ted acquired this and other works by Stefan Roloff under the guidance of New York art consultant, Ruth Kaufmann.

The Berlin-born artist is a painter, video artist, and filmmaker who divides his time between his native Germany and New York. He is a pioneer of digital video and photography.  In 1984, Stefan Roloff was invited to experiment on prototypes of digital video and imaging computers at the New York Institute of Technology where he created  Face (1984), his first Moving Painting which, produced by Peter Gabriel, was the predecessor of his well-known video Sledgehammer (1986).  

Stefan Roloff continues to combine his paintings and videos in collaborations with musicians like Martin Rev, Jim O"Rourke and Andrew Cyrille. He has produced and directed numerous videos and two documentary films. Each film is accompanied by an art installation, providing a three-dimensional space which the viewers can enter for a direct experience of the subject matter.  His documentary film The Red Orchestra is a portrait of his late father, Helmut Roloff, a resistance fighter against the Nazis. It was nominated for best foreign film in 2005 by the US Women Critics' Circle.


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