Wednesday, January 30, 2008
...I can't help it.
Art needs a break every once in a while for that other pasttime of mine-- EATING!
So I'm giving my readers two restaurant recommendations.
1. X.O. Cafe & Grill, long a favorite of mine in Chinatown on Walker Street.
This evening I probably had the most outstanding dumplings yet from their fantastic menu.
There's nothing... I repeat, nothing fresher, more crunchy, more succulent, and scrumptious than the snow pea leaf dumpling on their Dim Sum list.
(pic of actual X.O. dumpling by Roboppy on Flickr)
I mean, look at that thing!
It has (at least I think it has) snow pea leaves, water chestnuts, black mushrooms?? and possibly garlic) stuffed so neatly inside.
It comes with this excellent, thick and sweet dipping soy sauce.
I add the hot chili oil to it, and it just brings me to tears.
So good it melts in your mouth.
Besides their dim sum, they're quite known for their hot pots (sizzling beef and veggies on your table) as well as the pretty ridonkulous fake tree in the middle of the joint.
And... and... if that's not enough, take a look at my other favorite dum'lin'... the crystal shrimp dumpling.
The shrimps are meaty, sweet, pink, and so delicious.
I love the litle orange roe on top, not unlike Christo and Jean Claude's perfect shade of orange.
The Gates, anyone?
In fact, I believe these are works of art.
(photo again credited to Roboppy on Flickr)
And I finished it off with my usual Taro Root bubble tea.
X.O. is located on 96 Walker Street by Lafayette Street.
It's right around the corner from the Canal Street subway station.
And second, I had my first ever Sri Lankan food the other day.
The Nirvana Cafe in Gramercy exceeded my expectations.
(a look into the spice influences of Sri Lanka-- image from Byflickr on Flickr)
I thought Sri food would be very similar to Indian.
Yeah, sorta, except imagine your spicy quotient upped to heights never before seen, and sauces that are never liquidy, but thick and rich.
I had a quite chunky mint chutney that was truly from the gods.
This sat atop my order of vadai, 4 crisp lentil patties fried to a crisp perfection.
So delicate, and yet so meaty.
There's much more influences in their food than I expected-- French certainly being one of them.
As for the spices, my mouth was on FIRE the entire night, and I just wanted more and more.
I was tempted to get the hoppers, (crispy, curved crepes, one with egg in center, served with a chili relish katta sambol and a curry*), but I knew if I ate more than the 5 pounds of food I had received so far, I might explode.
(check out this recipe for do-it-yourself hoppers-- Warning, bad joke alert, this is not to be confused with Edward Hopper)
Some interesting vegetable sides came with my order of chicken curry (Five Alarm hotness)-- softened green beans in a sweet, yet spicy chili paste; chilled collard greens with minced scallions, shallots and garlic,with shredded coconut; and piping hot sweet potatoes in a delicious peanut sauce.
Nirvana Cafe is located at 213 3rd Avenue at 19th Street near Gramercy Park.
Since most of us don't have keys to that silly park anyway, why not scarf down some good eatin's instead!
Check out their website.
You can also use this nice menu from MenuPages as well.
Posted by Oly at 12:00 AM
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Several weeks ago, I had to get out of the city.
I felt I was chomping at the bit and just had to go somewhere... anywhere.
Stress was really getting to me, and sometimes the best thing one can do is go do something one loves, whether you have the budget for it or not, and that thing for me is travel.
My initial solution was "Go to Montreal," as I had done numerous times before, but that didn't work out the way I had planned-- an eight-hour bus drive and stomach ache from hell were huge factors.
And so I said, "Let's go to Philly instead. I love it there."
Having not set foot in the city of Brotherly Love since 1994, I figured I could use that extra dose of old brick buildings and cobblestone streets, so set apart by a successful historic preservation commission's hard work-- something New York City could use a good lesson in.
So off I went on December 30th and 31st, 2007 to close out my year-- a Sunday and Monday respectively, but not really the best time to go gallery hopping.
But it turned out I went there on just the right day.
My feet were aching terribly, having trekked all the way from the Italian Market and Bella Vista neighborhood all the way past Independence Hall, Franklin's Grave, to the Old City's amazingly transformed arts district.
Hungry, tired, and sick of seeing galleries with closed doors, there suddenly appeared a window of sheer color-saturated beauty I could not ignore.
This piece by artist Mel Davis' sat there in the window of Larry Becker Contemporary Art like my own siren's song of pulsating color rhythms pulling me in.
My nose pressed against the glass, the lights were on.
A woman came to the door.
Heidi welcomed me, the weary traveler, with a smile, into the gallery.
They weren't open, but were getting things together for the group show's launch to the public.
The exhibition, "In Light" delves into the possibilities of the color pallette; how canvas preparation and care can directly effect the viewer, playing with reality and our sense of space and time.
Mel Davis, Andrew Graham, Tom Benson and Howard Smith are a minimalist's dream quartet.
In this exhibit, there are direct references to the monochromes of Kasimir Malevich, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Ryman, and Yves Klein.
But along with the usual suspects of minimalism, monochrome painting and suprematism, each of these artists is doing something new with their respective works.
In the case of Andrew Graham, he uses color theory as a science, and plays visual trickery on the human eye.
The work must be seen in person close up and for an extended period of time.
A recent graduate of UPenn, Graham's lines of sheer color stream as if the color bars on a television set.
Utilizing artist's tape, each stripe almost blends perfectly into the other; its corresponding color at times completely unnoticeable, except upon second look.
Even when I took these pictures, I kept looking at my camera's image back to me.
Nothing was exact. The colors appear almost in motion, and no matter which setting I used, there continued to be at least a few colors that would transpose with another.
So not only do Graham's works play tricks with the human cornea, but also with digital 7.1 megapixel Canon shutters as well!
My favorite moment was suddenly noticing the tiniest band of lime green next to an earthy terra-cotta orange and pink.
It truly had escaped my eye, and I was so excited to be able to find it.
Here was my own Waldo, stripes and all, hidden in the crowded color field before me.
In Mel Davis' works, the canvas is prepared with such a gradual gradient hue, that it's again, almost unseen to the naked eye.
It is only upon deep introspection into the piece itself that the colors come out, and the different shades of blues take over.
In fact, there's such a refractive quality to the light, that you can literally see yourself in the center of her images-- giving the works an almost mirror-like effect.
I was immediately reminded of the paint on vehicles from the 1950s-- the golden age of cars-- smooth paints, sparkling almost like the fins on a Ford Fairlane.
In the same way Davis' paint application has an almost retro feel.
There are certainly elements of the color-fieldists, but she is making the work her own.
In Tom Benson's work, the paint is the process.
At first I thought they must be poured directly onto the aluminum sheets beneath, their surfaces being as slick as an ice rink, but this is quite incorrect.
Benson's brushstrokes have a true craftsmanship quality with each subsequent motion of the hand.
Only upon an extreme macro closeup photograph can you actually see the gradations from the individual brush hairs' grasping of the pigment.
Benson also develops his own paints.
On first look, this work appears to be a black rectangle-- nothing more, nothing less.
"A tribute, perhaps, to Malevich's black on black", I surmised.
But then I looked closer.
This wasn't black at all.
It is the deepest shade of green that there can be-- "Italian Green Earth" is what Benson calls this.
I imagined myself in the densest of dark forest-- old growth trees, sheltered from humanity, with no light from above, and only a soft mist caressing my cheek.
Perhaps a dark green moss lurks on the gallery floor; or overgrowing the rocks beneath.
Benson has set the mood in a way that really brought me into the works.
This was more than just "color on a panel", but perfection in simplicity.
Here was a show tailor made for my weary, travel-logged soul, which almost accomplished a spiritual awakening.
Howard Smith has had numerous shows over the years and has an incredible knowledge of how to bring in the viewer into not only the image of the color-- each brushstroke at first glance appears to be an angry mark-making, but alas, it's not hastily made.
A long term explorer into paint as process, Smith's paint grabs each and every bead of cotton canvas, not unlike the skin of a freshly plucked chicken, seeing each bump appear where the feathers once called home.
It is quite time-consuming, and he is careful of where each stroke chooses to lie.
Take a look at this closeup, and how the hyper-orange paint rests so perfectly upon each portion of the cotton duck.
It's pure beauty in saturation.
There is no need for gessoing or sanding with his works, because the canvas itself plays an essential role to each of his pieces.
There are similarities to Smith's painting style to that of Julian Lethbridge, who had a fantastic show last year at Paula Cooper Gallery.
But here, paint intersects with the blank sheet; like two lovers intertwined in embrace.
A beautiful thing.
The exhibit runs through Feburary 16th, so I highly recommend taking your own road trip down there, or if you're in the Philly area, it's a show not to be missed.
Oh, and if you have the chance, make sure to give a big hello not only to Larry and Heidi, but also gallery cat Pink, who is quite curious with art bloggers.
Apparently not only is she adorable, soft and furry and quite cuddly, but is a bit of an art world celebrity herself, having appeared in a photo spread in Art Forum, no less!
For more information, go to:
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I was one of three curators for the current Winter Salon showcase at Denise Bibro Fine Art here in Chelsea.
My invitational selections for the show of artists were works by Daniel Giese, Christopher Reiger, Martha Walker, Ric Dragon, Michael Paul Miller, and Sarah K. Bean (image on left)-- all of which I can say are truly stunningly fantastic works being done by these extremely talented artists.
I also got the opportunity to select the works of several of the gallery represented artists-- Lisa Dinhofer, Carol Jacobsen, and Charles Olson-- as well as assisted in the selection of the works of Josephine Haden and the ever fantastic Joyce Korotkin.
Originally the show didn't have a theme, but I found that with each of my choices that I was starting to tell a story with the works-- man's altering of nature; an apocalyptic armageddon on the horizon; sensual lines and loops; and mastery of color, line and form.
Everyone included in the show I'm so very proud of, so I would love it if my readers could check it out.
One of my favorite things about Flickr is the ability to have a "favorites" section.
(mmmm.... I'll have a Super Roast Beef with Horsey sauce, please...)
In my case, what I've gone about doing is try to remember everything and everywhere I've ever been before-- tracking sites and places from my childhood all the way up through today-- then going and finding them by doing Flickr searches.
Sure, that's time-consuming, and could possibly take up another lifetime, but it's worth it.
Included in my "selections" are searches for the Arby's Roast Beef sign in Tacoma, Washington; the Shell Factory sign in Ft. Meyers, Florida; Bok Tower and the Citrus Tower of Central Florida infamy; a pony in Wisconsin; Queechee Gorge, Vermont; Montreal; miniature daschunds, and places I want to see-- the Stave churches of Norway, for instance.
Image at right, "Norwegian Smile" by shoko!! on Flickr.
When I saw the Arby's sign still going strong, it brought a tear to my eye, as well as the tiny A&W Root Beer mug, which is exactly like the one I drank from when I was about three years old.
If you have 10-15 minutes out of your day, I highly encourage you to check out my slide show of these "curatorial selections."
They've just bowled me over in their quality and sentimental aspects.
As a question to everyone else-- if you have a Flickr account, please feel free to share them here.
I still think it's one of the best invention ever to view amateur and emerging photographers.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
The United States of America was thisclose to having an industry go under and be forced to take responsibility for their own greed and ethically abhorrent practices.
But noooooo... Bank of America (my bank, thank you very much) decided to save Countrywide's ass from total annihilation.
Way to go, BOA!
Nothing says "lesson learned" by letting the upper echelons get away scot-free, as per usual, and have millions more in profits come their way from the continued shady practices of their brokers.
FYI-- the new way for brokers to get around the approval process is to stick people into "FHA" programs who do not qualify, and are not meant for this government-sponsored program.
Be prepared for the fallout from that one in another three years' time.
In related news, last night's opening for the A.A. Bronson's Shamanism exhibition at John Connelly Presents was wall-to-wall immobile last night and stank like piss, sweat, barf, dead fish, beer and cum.
I literally almost threw up in there, it stank so bad.
Just like Bank of America, let's compare Connelly.
(image at right from Hrag Vartanian www.hragvartanian.com)
In one of the "pieces," performance artist Michael Dudeck sat there nude, covered in head-to-toe white body paint, cradling a dead fish, perhaps wearing a long black wig, looking about as intriguingly in depth and spiritually relevant as Keanu Reeves did in "Little Buddha."
Great show, you guys.
Much in the same way that Bank of America bails out a bankrupt system of corrupt businessmen, Connelly bankrolls artists that are continuously suited for theater and theatrics rather than work that is anything but hard-hitting.
And Terrence Koh's "glory hole" bathroom stall was about as brilliant an idea as any addict in the Port Authority john could come up with.
Did they watch the news or something about Senator Larry Craig and his wide stance?
Because if so, the Brad Pitt and George Clooney video spoof was 500 times better.
First exhibit of the year I've panned.
Please excuse my hate-filled vitriol, but I just can't keep my opinionated self confined when I see this type of work exhibited when so much better stuff is available.
Perhaps this means I'll be blacklisted, and I'm violating the rules of "be nice and find the good things when you write reviews,"' but what can I say, I am what I am, just as they is what they is.
So to Mr. Connelly and corporate America, (you are one and the same, no matter what your flowery press release language is) keep on the keeping on by propping up complete and total junk.
Eventually you'll learn that the stench doesn't necessarily go away when the exhibit comes down.
Oly, over and out.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
As I've stated numerous times, sometimes work that really gets to me the most is made by artists that are having fun with their talents and not taking themselves too seriously.
And there's few artists I enjoy more than New York-based visual and performance artist Robert Appleton.
His visual creations and theater sessions always gives me a good chuckle, whether he's performing in fishnets dancing a chorus line county fair talent show audition; portraying Jeffrey Dahmer devouring watermelon human flesh on stage; painting mustachioed sailors who'd make any Village People member proud; or simply creating whimsically deviant sailor puppets in multiples.
In the past decade, Appleton has well-honed himself as a storyteller-- highlighting characters who might have downed a little too much of the 90-proof, if you catch my drift.
These are well-lived souls, with plenty of battle scars to show for it.
Appleton always gives an interesting take on their plights-- soon to set sail, a battle ahead, a life quite likely soon to be taken and sunk to the bottom of the sea.
Of course, many times his subjects have been society matrons, who truth be told can drink any sailor till he's weak in the knees, dropping them to the poop deck in crisp piles of Blue Jean Collars with bell-bottomed trousers.
You certainly do not need to be 'In the Navy' to knock 'em back.
If they give posthumous honors, Judy Garland could be a Navy Rear Admiral, for Christ's sakes.
It's a delight to see Appleton premiering his new sailor series at Paul Sharpe Contemporary Art in Chelsea based on portraits of actual sailors from 1750 to 1849.
Each one has lovingly been given his own personality.
In many cases, each subject seems to not necessarily look like he's very comfortable with his choice in careers.
Take a look at this poor fellow below.
After all, who would want to go to sea for months straight in those times?
You can literally read the dread on the sailor's faces.
Below is another fresh-faced foppish youngish chap.
His decorative hat is a nice embellishment-- but just what is that on his forehead, hmm?
Perhaps an in-joke, or perhaps not.
I do have to say I love the slight-of-hand subtlety in Appleton's pieces.
His questioning of sexual identity (bottled-up searing young masculinity cooped up in tight quarters for extended lengths of time) is a hoot, and quite truthfully spot-on.
Whew, it's getting a bit hot in here, isn't it?
Appleton possesses an almost cartoonish-style in his brushstrokes, giving his subjects these huge eyes, smeared lipstick, with hauntingly lit backgrounds.
It's almost as if Karen Kilimnik has met Toulouse Lautrec and they're tossing a few back while at port with Carol Channing and Napoleon.
This is one opening I will not miss.
Too bad it's not also Fleet Week, because that would be the icing on the cake.
Paul Sharpe Contemporary is located at 547 West 27th street on the 5th floor.
The opening is this Thursday, January 10th, from 6-9pm.
For more information, go to:
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Happy New Year, everybody!
Hope you all have sobered up and are ready for another year with The Musings.
Just got back from a fantastic, but quick, trip to Philadelphia.
More on that later-- I have a great exhibit coming up for your perusal from Larry Becker Contemporary Art.
But first, a quick spotlight on an artist I met at SVA's recent MFA Open Studios.
Her name is unforgettable-- Sarah Ferguson-- and her work as well.
Though she has immediate identification with British royalty, she instead spotlights our own royalty of American politics, the Queen herself, Hillary Clinton.
Imagining and juxtaposing herself into "photo-ops" with Hillary-- whether that of advisor, trusted confidante, or loyal friend-- Ferguson's work is not to be missed.
I love the humor in this-- the imaginative quality.
All of us at one time or another wishes we could have the ear of those in power, just to give them our own two cents' worth.
What also strikes me about Ferguson's work is her great ability to document the humanity behind the public image.
In the case of Hillary, far too often what we see so often is a manufactured being; stripped of her own femininity, and pandering to the lowest common denominator-- the "American voter."
But what Ferguson gets at is raw vulnerability through her paintings.
You can see the pain of a life lived-- and lived in its fullest, with emotional pain and baggage hidden and underscored by a brilliant mind, wrapped in powerhouse packaging.
In the nude at left, Ferguson imagined Hillary's makeup from pieces of different women's bodies.
After all, what Hillary represents at this time in history is is an amalgamation of the "American Woman."
Interestingly enough, if Hillary Clinton wasn't "Hillary Clinton," wouldn't the momentus occasion of a woman running for President be received quite differently?
Ferguson will soon have her Master's from one of our nation's top MFA programs.
I dare any gallery not to consider her work for its timeliness, its stunningly creative humor, and emotionally dark underpinnings.
Great one to watch in the year ahead.
Check out her blog at http://hillaryrealandimagined.blogspot.com/ and her Flickr page to see more great examples of her "photo ops" collection.
Wishing all my readers the best in the coming year,