The name given by Italian artists Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) and Carlo Carra (1881-1966) to the style of painting that resulted from their encounter at the military hospital in Ferrara in 1917. In English it is often referred to as ‘metaphysical painting’.
Although short-lived and not strictly a school, according to de Chirico’s brother ALBERTO SAVINIO (1891-1952), its significance was: ‘the total representation of spiritual necessities within plastic limits – power to express the spectral side of things – irony’. Metaphysical painting is imbued with an air of mystery, ambiguity and incongruity, achieved through unreal perspective and striking lighting.
Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. They were invented by artist Clark Whittington.
The inspiration for Art-o-mat came to Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When Whittington’s friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.
After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Whittington was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie (now Di Lisio’s Italian Restaurant). This is when Whittington used a recently banned cigarette machine to create the first Artomat. The show opened in June 1997 and the original machine was installed along with 12 of his assemblage paintings. The machine sold Whittington’s black & white photographs for $1.00 each.
This art show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997; however, Cynthia Giles (owner of the Penny Universitie) loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently. Clark felt that the machine would create a conflict in the space unless it was open to artists in the community. Giles then introduced Whittington to a handful of other local artists, and Artists in Cellophane was formed. As of July 2018, there were over 100 machines around the world and over 400 artists involved. As of September 2021, there were over 200 machines in the USA, with additional machines in Austria and Australia. Six of the machines are featured at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Whittington maintains a small satellite studio in the Delurk Gallery in downtown Winston-Salem, where visitors can see work in progress on Art-o-mat machines.