New York

George Stoll

Morris Healy Gallery

“My world is safe,” prays Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’ recent movie. The dream of safety, of purity, of replenishment; the alleviation of worry, of second guesses; the banishment of rapid decomposition—it is a dream of home, of order’s comforts, of containment. What makes suburbia beautiful (plenitude, order, stylization, repetition) is what makes it scary (plenitude, order, stylization, repetition). The same may be said of Tupperware, whose elegant design belies the malaise of the leftover, the unused, the refrigerated. Brownie Wise, one of Earl Silas Tupper’s collaborators, helped formulate the party sales plan that took Tupperware sales out of the department store and into the tract homes, developments, and endless communities that the containers weirdly recalled. In part, Tupperware fueled the plastics revolution: the mania for food-storage containers led to copies of all sorts.

Such as George Stoll’s handmade beeswax impostures! The colors of Stoll’s stacks and assemblages hum. While some of his colors beautifully, uncannily replicate Tupperware shades, more often they are like memories of these colors. To the Tupperware palette, Stoll adds pumpkin, lite pink, rose, tints of salt-water taffy, and the fluid pigments of the body—skin, semen, blood, bile. Stoll does not need “the services of Barbara Schirmeister, nationally known color consultant, to help predict what color will ‘turn on’ the American public”—he already knows: ivory, gold, tangerine, apple green, and daffodil; butterscotch, lemon, peach; frosted crystal and pastels, where “frost” means, Did you frost your hair yourself or have it done professionally? According to an early catalogue, Tupperware “provided a soupçon of gay informality.” Stoll likes that gay informality—informally gay is better—although he likes the gay formality of Tupperware shapes as well: Tumbler, Handolier, Pie Wedge, Party Bowl, Square Round, Square Keeper, Ice Tup, Party Susan, Suzette, Crisp-It, Thin-Stor, large and small Wonderliers. Tupperware does not have lids, covers, or tops, only “seals.” Stoll duplicates these seals’ curves and bubble domes. Some of his sculptures are just so, everything eerily exact; others look like Tupperware left out in a hot station wagon too long, forlorn. All smell wonderful. By noticing the niceties of Tupperware design, his work celebrates the fake, the useless, the homemade; things we should care more about and not overlook.

One of Brownie Wise’s sales techniques: “A typical demonstration at a party was to take a cereal bowl (another very early product) filled with water and sealed, and throw it across the room. The surprised party attendees bought these in droves.” Was the ladies’ satisfaction, their obeisance or capitulation to the mores of the day, turning sour? Did they know the sterility sometimes contained within the clean designs of the comfortable and dreamy?

This (feminine) aggression was echoed in the beautiful cool reserve of Stoll’s work for very different reasons. Have you kept the memory of the last kiss brined in a Saver? Have you preserved a dear heart in a Thin-Stor, pickled the final touch of final skin in Square Rounds, put the glow of it all in a Party Susan? George Stoll provides a plangent, honey commentary on what came before AIDS and the current state of prophylaxis. In the ’70s, the decade ours uncannily mimics year by year, the Tupperware catalogue opened with this promise, these words of advice for the longevity of their products (and their purchasers): “Treat them as you do your hands and they will provide long, dependable service.” Tupperware still comes with a Full Lifetime Guarantee, which is now how long, how many years? Stoll’s work preserves forever, but he knows there is no guarantee.

Bruce Hainley