Sunday, April 13, 2008

Alison Watt - Phantom

ART London

Alison Watt: Phantom
The Sunley Room at the National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
12 March - 22 June 2008
Admission free.

by Sarah Pasetto

The National Gallery is always bustling with visitors, especially as a Saturday afternoon approaches closing time. The tourists and art lovers hurry from painting to painting, seeking to soak in every last “must-see”, every last detail before being chased out of the lofty rooms. I strode through the crowd, twisting and turning past the remaining eager viewers, past Renaissance and Baroque drama hung against blood-red damask, to enter Alison Watt’s “Phantom” exhibition. Here, the atmosphere was radically different. This was no home for loud whispers, bulky backpacks, harnessed chaos. The only noise in the show’s antechamber was hinted at, by one of the painter’s sources of inspiration: Francisco de Zurbaran’s Saint Francis, robed in rough monk’s cloth, quietly howling in mystical piety.

The exhibition displays a number of vast canvases, each depicting folds of white fabric in close-up. However, far from being clinical or aseptic, they convey a sensation of softness, as does Proserpina in her Bernini incarnation. Human presence is suggested, not only through the inevitable parallel with a slowly-tousled intimacy, but also through the interplay of cloth and negative space. The black gaps mirror parts of the human anatomy - a languidly parted mouth, a narrowed eye, a private cleft. The lighting is suffused, and the walls a cool blue-grey, making the atmosphere as rarefied as the first lights of dawn, and creating the impression that the visitor has been allowed into most intimate chambers. Ultimately, it is an irresistible aura of sensuality that emanates from the collection - overpowering precisely because it consists, like the most refined and mature form of seduction, of intriguing, tantalising, allusion.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taverna Kyklades

Taverna Kyklades
33-07 Ditmars Blvd (between 33rd and 35th Streets)
Queen, New York
Subway: N, W to Astoria, Ditmars Blvd

by Val Bitici

As a restaurant family, the Bitici clan has an innate appreciation for all things food related: cooking, eating, 17th century Dutch still life paintings (ok, so I threw that one in there), etc. When I have plans to eat out with my dad, I know that a delightful gourmet experience awaits me. But when he calls me and tells me that he’s picking me up with his car, I know to expect an extra special treat. I particularly enjoy our epicurean expeditions outside the (too often ego-centric) island of Manhattan. For this reason I am always happy when he suggests that we go to Astoria for Greek food.

A crowd of hungry people and an intense smell of fresh food always greet me as I enter Taverna Kyklades. The charm of this bustling restaurant is not attributed to its location or décor, but instead to the straightforward and tasty dishes that are prepared in its kitchen. While quite extensive, the menu consists of simple options that are for the most part grilled. My dad always taught me that the simplest foods, such as grilled chicken, meat or fish, are the most difficult to prepare properly. Anyone can slap a chicken breast onto a grill and watch it sizzle. But only the true professionals can marinate, season and grill it to meet and even surpass the expectations of unsuspecting eaters. The grill-men at Taverna Kyklades have this art down to a science. My favorite items on the menu include the grilled sardines, grilled chicken kebab, grilled peppers, lemon potatoes, beets and tzatziki. My advice is to go with a group of friends and try them all… and then some. I promise you will not leave unsatisfied.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Found Geometries

New York

by Victor Timofeev

I started taking the long way home, walking an extra ten blocks to get to the express rather than riding the local and started paying more attention to my environment. So many amazing sights await if you just pay attention and look up. A seemingly, unprecedented barrage of new condominium construction is creating new sights, new geometries that are as exciting as they are frightening.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cai Guo Qiang: I Want to Believe

ART New York

Cai Guo Qiang: I Want to Believe

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128

By Melissa Passman

Thomas Krens, the polarizing director of the Guggenheim Foundation for twenty years, plays a central role in the story of Cai Guo-Qiang’s massive spectacle of an exhibition currently at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. With last week’s surprising news that he would be stepping down as director, journalists began to eulogize his tenure, once again reminding us of the motorcycles and the Armani suits that will certainly remain as symbols of the excess that characterized his brash leadership style.

The current retrospective (co-curated by Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art) is no different. As a vocal proponent of Cai Guo-Qiang’s theatrical art, my first impression on walking though the revolving doors was one of amazement. Confronted first by the cars hanging from the ceiling with fluorescent bulbs piercing them, and then by tigers with arrows that fill the second ramp. On the third ramp, an installation originally commissioned for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin invites us to weave in and out of the line of wolves that will eventually crash into a glass wall. According to the wall text, this piece is an allegory for the Berlin Wall, synthesizing local and global histories.

Also drawing on recent history, Cai recreates “New York’s Rent Collection Courtyard,” a Communist propaganda sculpture from the late 1960’s. Occupying almost an entire ramp, a team of Chinese sculptors will fabricate this piece throughout the duration of the exhibition, exposing the process to the multitudes of visitors who will inevitably pass through the museum. He continuously insists on this process of audience engagement, whether incorporating paddleboats steered by four year olds and live snakes into his installations or forcing us to navigate past tigers pierced by arrows.

Best known for his work with gunpowder and fireworks drawings, I can’t help but think of the politically charged link to Cai’s prominent participation in the Beijing Olympics. As a prelude to the coming months, this is one spectacle that shouldn’t be missed.

Roots Block Reggae


Roots Block Reggae

The Barbican Centre
Until March 30

by Shayla Lawson

The Baribican Centre of London serves up a tantalizing array of reggae cult classics in its Film Jamaica series. Film Jamaica runs parallel to the Barbican Theatre’s seasonal run of The Harder They Come, a musical adaptation of the groundbreaking seventies-era Jamaican feature starring legendary Jimmy Cliff. The Harder They Come tells the country-boy-meets-world story of a young musician who moves to Kingston with dreams of becoming a singer but quickly becomes an outlaw. The soundtrack features seminal reggae hits “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” “Many Rivers to Cross,” and the title track.

Wednesday March 28th, Film Jamaica will premiere Rockers a documentary style exploration of the Robin Hood myth in roots music culture during Jamaica’s music industry heyday. Ted Bafaloukos directed the film in 1978; it runs 100 minutes, black-and-white, with English subtitles. Rockers plays at 20:40, tickets costs £8.50 for full price admission.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


FOOD New York

courtesy of Eater.Com

50 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014

by Val Bitici

Situated on the corner between Bedford and Barrow Streets in New York City’s West Village, Commerce occupies an historical restaurant space that began many years ago as a speakeasy during Prohibition. As the February 2008 opening was much anticipated, I could not wait to try the new eatery for myself. So on a cold and rainy Friday evening my sister and I headed there to meet a friend for an early dinner and a bottle of Prosecco.

Despite the fact that we were half an hour late for our reservation (not only was it pouring outside, our cab driver had also never heard of Commerce Street), the hostess graciously received us and led us to a booth. As we studied the menu and snacked on a basket of warm rolls and soft, mini pretzels, it became clear to us that this dining experience would not be a mundane one. Listing items such as Warm Oysters in Champagne with Caviar, Duck and Foie Gras Terrine with black cherry shallot jam, Marinated Fluke Sashimi, and Roasted Sweet Potato Tortelloni with hazelnuts, pomegranate and beurre noisette, the menu presented a plethora of decadent options from which to choose. Indecisive as to which dishes we wanted to try most, we resolved to order many and share them all.

We ordered about seven dishes in total: three market special starters, three appetizers, and one entrée from the main menu. By the end of our feast I found myself most impressed by the simplest plates on our table. The Mushroom and Fontina Ravioli ($16) served in a parmesan emulsion was unlike most stuffed pastas I have eaten and, quite pleasantly, not nearly as cheesy. The Young Cod in a stew of sweet peas, speck ham and black truffles ($27) was the sole entrée we had ordered and my favorite addition to our multifarious spread. The light taste of the fish when paired with the saltiness of the ham, the sweetness of the peas and the blast of flavor from the truffles was a flawless combination.

While our savory dishes were very delectable indeed, my gold medal is awarded to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Marquise ($9) that we ordered for dessert. A luscious, layered tower of whipped chocolate and peanut butter mousse, this dish was served with celery sorbet and salted peanuts. The effect of the sweet, salty, cold and soft on my palate can only be described as euphoria. If you want to know what the high-class version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup tastes like, then I suggest you go to Commerce and order this dessert.

Collage Party!

ART Toronto

by Vanessa Nicholas

This past week between Sunday March 9 and Wednesday March 12 Paul Butler hosted one of his famous collage parties at Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery as part of the University of Toronto’s annual Festival of the Arts. How I wish I could have been there!

Buter’s collage parties are modest events that usually takes place in gallery or studio spaces. Chairs, tables, tape, and magazines are provided and all are welcome to participate. The parties can last from a few hours to a few days and all resulting works are exhibited afterwards. Butler, who is from Winnipeg and graduated from The Alberta Collage of Art and Design in 1997, began hosting collage parties in 2002 after he began missing the concentrated and communal atmosphere of creativity that characterizes the art school experience. Though they began as casual events between friends, Butler’s concept quickly gained international popularity. Butler has hosted collage parties in London, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Oslo, and Dundee.

I imagine these events to be like group meditations. Canadian artist Cliff Eyland describes the parties as “many hands slapping, folding, creasing, and tearing…the prevailing mood is contemplative…[it is] a set of long, dreamy interludes of looking.”

Butler’s collages themselves reveal an interest in meditation and equate the collage process itself to a kind of redemption. They are often combinations of text and empty space or landscape scenes that give the viewer physical room to breathe. The untitled and undated work that is pictured above, for example, features a forest scene with the text “decisions, decisions, decisions” set against it. This combination of found natural imagery and provoking text embodies the type of refuge that the collage process can offer. “Decisions, decisions, decisions” describes a state of stressful sensory overload as well as the restorative act of making a collage. Magazines, newspapers, advertisements, junk mail, and pamphlets in many ways represent the clutter and stress of urban life that can make us feel claustrophobic and over stimulated. Collage prompts us to slow down and purposefully consider the minutia of everyday life. The challenge of selecting and compose images in a meaningful way encourages us to seek out beauty in a pro-active way.

Make sure to keep your eyes and ears open for Butler’s collage parties. In the meantime, serve your soul and start cutting and pasting!