Aunt Marie gave me Terry Bisson’s short story collection Bears Discover Fire; I must’ve read it soon after I saw Redicliffe’s “Fourteen Paper Cups” (1996) at the Pepper Gallery; on the back of the promotional postcard I wrote the titles of the stories I liked. I liked the collection’s titular story—it’s the only one I remember. The title is literal. Bears have discovered fire. “Fourteen Paper Cups” is a pretty literal title, too. Arranged on a red counter top (with aluminum trim) are fourteen paper cups. Six white, six teal, one blue, one red. Some of the cup are crumpled and on their side, some dented but upright. Behind the cups is a solid dark blue/gray; beneath the counter it’s white—a brighter white than the white cups. At the start of an interview of Redicliffe conducted by Larry Groff, Groff asks, “Can you speak about the difference between what you do and photorealism?” Redicliffe defines photorealism as painting from photographs, which he does not do. But Groff is onto something else. The objects in Redicliffe’s painting are near photoreal—you would not mistake the postcard reproduction of “Fourteen Paper Cups” for a photograph the way might mistake a postcard reproduction of Gerhard Richter’s “Betty” (1988) for a photograph. Redicliffe’s choice of a monochromatic background is a tip-off. The cups themselves—if the title wasn’t “Fourteen Paper Cups,” I’d’ve gone on thinking they were plastic.
The postcard reproduction is 2” x 3”—this reduction suits “Fourteen Paper Cups”—the show was called Small Paintings. On a visit to the gallery, I held “Fourteen Paper Cups.”
If bears discover fire, do they cook? Do they light their caves? We know what happens next.