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!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tonnie's Mini's. And Why is New York Obsessed with its Bests?

Food New York

Tonnie’s Mini’s

West Village Bakery
120 W 3rd St
New York, NY 10012

by Shayla Lawson

My first week as a New York resident has taught me one vital truth: New Yorkers love to label things as the best. Before moving I, a reluctant foody, scanned websites, “authentic” guidebooks, and newspaper articles for the best selection of moderately priced savory delights in this foody town. The Zagat guide’s “City’s Best Barbeque?” Horrible! The Village Voice’s ‘Best Grilled Paneer Sandwhich?’ Eh. Junior’s “Most Fabulous Cheesecake?” Tasty. But most fabulous is stretching it a bit.

While standing in line at a Starbuck at Union Square and 14th Street (not the best one in the vicinity, the barista informed me, for that I’d have to go three blocks down) I overheard a conversation between a woman and her partner:

“You have to go to (blah blah blah) in Chelsea,” she says knowingly, dramatically waving a black-shawled arm. “The coffee is all imported from (blah) in Europe. It’s expensive, but they only hire the best baristas in the city. I treat myself to it once a month. I’m telling you it’s the best [ridiculously over-priced latte for the self-obsessed] in town… (ad naseum).”

Why are New Yorkers like this? Traditionally and geographically, New York exists as a city of immigrants: primarily the poor and the young. Each year nearly a million people of this distinction migrate to the city to search out its promise of success and distinction. Once one ascribes to that particular brand of delusional beauty specific to the Big Apple the immigrant moves from the status of foreigner to that of “New Yorker,” a person whose metropolitan saavy rivals only his ability to find the city’s hidden, unparalleled, gems. Asking a New Yorker for the best of anything is a lot like asking at 13-year-old Midwestern girl for a recommendation on the “World’s Best Musician.” They cannot help but give an answer tainted by what’s going around the barrio. However, a week after my first visit to a bakery touted as the “Best Cupcake in Town,” I still feel like writing about it.

Right down the street from the West 4th Street/Washington Square train stop lays Tonnie’s Minis. You will find it unassumingly sandwiched between a record store and a litter of the laid-back independent shops characterizing the NYU side of Greenwhich Village. The sign for the bakery’s mini delights shares top billing with an advertisement for “The Best BBQ Sandwhich in Town.” I didn’t try it, I wouldn’t recommend it, but the bold red contrast of the barbeque sign against the Tonnie’s Minis marshmallow white drew me in through the tiny door. I walked in to a simple assortment of two-seat deli tables and the sweet scent of pastries. No barbeque. My mother and sister, who claimed to be sitting at the tea room across the street but detoured instead, chomped shamelessly on their third round of cupcakes. The space is minimal, but I would much rather sit down for a Saturday afternoon coffee and Powerbook break squeezed between its full length mirror and the next hungry customer than at any of the college ambiance coffee houses in the immediate vicinity.

I go for the red velvet cupcake. Perfect – the kind of light confection I have tried to concoct at home with little success. Why bake? I think to myself. Tonnie will do the work for me all by himself! I smirk at the cashier’s suggestion that Tonnie’s has the best cupcakes in town.
“I don’t know… I live next to Junior’s,” I reply.

“They may have the best cheesecake but you won’t find a better cupcake anywhere in the city,” he replies, serious and attractively stone-faced for someone talking about cupcakes. He offers me a second one. Chocolate. And tells me to take it home and enjoy it with a glass of milk.

Do I write this article because Tonnie’s Minis makes the best cupcakes in town? How would I know? I am new to the block. I write this article because the cashier was cute, the cupcakes cheap, my second one free (flirtation discount) and a week after it clung to the inside of a paper bag at the back of my refrigerator this Devil’s Food cupcake is a whole lot better than half-bad.

Impressions on Dobrzanski in Milan

Art Milan
view of Vayont, 1964

Edmondo Dobrzanski
Castello Sforzesco
Milan, Italy
Until the 6th of April, 2008

by Odette d'Albo

Walking through the new exhibit of Edmondo Dobrzanski’s works will allow its Milanese audience to reacquaint themselves with a forgotten master of 20th Century European art. The labyrinthine display of paintings reveal the dramatic sensibility of an artist's solemn and serious view on life. The "white-cube"-effect of the exhibition design is a stark contrast from the consistently dark tones of the two-hundred and fifty works on display.

“This black timber is the fulcrum of all, the pin," states the artist on his predilection for dark palettes. "The sum of my experiences and of my limits. Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, except Cézanne, lived of an external light. I speak about an interior light. My paintings would be more and more black because inside them are my things, things that I feel. The black is not funerary, there’s hope inside it. There’s hope in dram."

Loneliness and silence are fundamental aspects of Dobrzanski’s intense art, as can be seen in Vayont, a large wooden painting created in memory of the over 2,000 victims of a disaster in 1964, when a city in Northern Italy was devastated by a landslide and tsunami caused by the reckless construction of a dam. The large painting, created immediately after the tragedy and exhibited at the Expo of Losanna in 1964, brought the artist public and critical attention, exemplifying his life-long commitment to a socially-engaged aesthetic.

Furthermore, as a Jewish artist, Dobrzanski was forced to leave Milan in the 40s because of Italy’s racial laws. He became a refugee in Switzerland, never forsaking his artistic intentions and political integrity, although he was sometimes frightened by his mind’s creations. “I worked on war themes and I created a cycle of drawings with anti- Nazi sentiments” recalls the artist “now I only have a little series of them, because I tore up and burnt many of them. I was frightened that Germany could come in, there was the real danger that they would open the Swiss canal toward France. (…) I lived in fear and dismay of having done those tables. If the Germans had entered Switzerland from the north and they had found those drawings I would have been shot.”

The experience of such fear is extremely important in his career and probably informs his politically-charged and anguished art. The exhibition reveals the clear influence of Expressionist painters such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, who depicted the working class in its loneliness and labour.

The exhibition curated by Maurizio Del Giudice succeeds in re-evaluating and recontextualizing the once-eminent artist into contemporary art history. More modestly, it also gives us the opportunity to appreciate the power of a painter who was at one time considered, along with Giacometti, one of the greatest Swiss artists of the past century.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Best Damn Coffee Shop Around Union Square Area

Food New York

Everyman's Espresso
136 East 13th street (between 3rd and 4th avenues)

by Victor Timofeev

The vastly knowledgeable baristas at Everyman’s make kickass espresso drinks and serve them coupled with intellectual conversations. The Pain Au Chocolat, the seemingly simple chocolate croissant baked by Tisserie bakery across Union Square Park, is by far their best pastry. Pair it with a soy cappuccino, (the soy makes it naturally, lightly sweetened) as it complements the boldness of the chocolate found in the two large veins inside the croissant. The total comes to something around five dollars, a bargain for such an exciting way to start a Sunday morning. Also, there is an excess amount of Sunday times lying around the café Sunday afternoons, saving you four dollars on the paper!

Chance of Landing a Seat : Weekdays – 100%. Weekends – 91%.
Local Runners-up : Ninth Street Espresso, Joe the Art of Coffee.
What To Get : Soy Cappuccino (to stay, of course!!!) and Pain Au Chocolat

Ghada Amer & Reza Farkhondeh: Collaborative Drawings

Art New York

Ghada Amer & Reza Farkhondeh: Collaborative Drawings
The Tina Kim Gallery
The Chelsea Arts Tower
545 West 25th Street
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001

by Shayla Lawson

Nothing new. I have trouble with the contemporary art world’s acceptance of hybrid print work as a new-medium substitute for the craft of drawing. I readily admit, I have little knowledge of Amer or Farkhondeh, I found an advertsiment for the art opening on, but I have an intense attraction to the intimacy and reverence that accompanies artist that work as part of a successful collaborative partnership. That said, I found little about the work present in RFGA show that transcended beyond their shared enjoyment of process. Birds and thread-stiched Disney characters scattered in a field of pornographic heroines do not an artshow make. Although the press release refers to their attraction to Dadaist Automism and “the latent eroticism of the human form,” I found the half-dozen dry, uninspired, and downright silly. Yes, I am certain Farkhondeh and Amer would give elegant recitations regarding the meaning of each drawings. And they work so adeptly as a team one could easily make the argument RFGA constitutes a third artist in the body of singular and collaborative work produced by these artists in the past twenty years or so. But nothing in the pieces showcased a new take on humanity, a broader reflection on the human body, an elevated sense of craft. They were doodles. And not even particularly compelling ones in the art world of widely accepted contemporary doodling. Better luck next time, boys and girls.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Food London

14 Old Compton Street
Soho, London

by Sarah Pasetto

Soho is a labyrinthine cocktail of activities and people. Rows of more or less salacious nightclubs circle the Catholic church I attend; a Michelin-starred venue is steps away from a Pizza Express. On the fringes of this pot-pourri stands Amato, an Italian patisserie/restaurant which has become one of my favourite haunts. Although unobtrusive, its shop window cannot be missed. Mirroring the eclecticism of its surroundings, it exhibits an assortment of cakes of every shape and size, and the long glass display inside hosts a wide range of biscuits for tea, chocolates and desserts sold by the portion.

As an Italian-Singaporean raised in Italy, I can say that this is the place to assuage my expatriate days of nostalgia, as everything, from the flavours to the staff, and the welcoming, relaxed atmosphere, is genuinely Italian. Distant is the brisk impersonality of the myriad coffee joints around the city, which confer anonymity and not intimacy. Rather, the laid-back joviality of Amato will pull you out of the melancholy contemplativeness London can so easily induce, and make you open to enjoy the simple pleasures that render life sweet: the company of a dear one, the heartiness of a plate of pasta and a foamy, bittersweet cappuccino.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John Latham at Delaye/Saltoun, London


John Latham: The Spray Gun and the Cosmos
11 Savile Row London W1S 3PG
Until April 11th 2008

by Vanessa Nicholas

Delaye/Saltoun is a commercial gallery focusing on post-war British art that opened in London’s Saville Row on February 29. Their first show is “John Latham: The Spray Gun and the Cosmos”.

John Latham was an important British artist of the postwar period and is remembered particularly for his work entitled Spit and Chew (1966), which involved him and his students at Saint Martin’s School of Art chewing the school library’s copy of Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture. The book’s pages were turned to a pulp and left to ferment in a jar. After a series of overdue notices from the library, Latham returned the book in its new form. Needless to say, his teaching contract was not renewed.

Delaye/Saltoun’s show focuses on Latham’s interest in science. As a young man Latham began to question his devout Christian upbringing and sought to find a more satisfying theory of reality. This period of doubt and exploration coincided with his meeting and befriending two scientists, Clive Gregory and Anita Kohse. Latham adopted their belief that an alternate and more inclusive cosmological theory that broke down barriers between science and culture could end human conflict. The spray gun paintings attempt to visually represent ‘least-event’ theory that Latham developed with Gregory and Kohse, and which basically reduces reality to events instead of particles. The burst of paint from the spray gun is a literal representation of what Latham believed to be the essence of cosmological structure. In addition their integration of science and art realizes Gregory and Kohse’s interdisciplinary aims.

The works are explosive, chaotic and vibrating compositions on unprimed canvas. Neutral tones like brown, black, and grey dominate, though are activated by bursts of bright colors including, purple, pink and blue. That these works are removed from the artist’s hand by the spray-gun positions them against the works being made at the same time by the abstract expressionists, which celebrate human gesture. These works have not been exhibited together since they were made in the 1950s.

What I find most endearing and inspiring about Latham’s spray-gun works is his romantic intentions. That he believed his spray-gun full of paint could potentially dissolve barriers between people and establish a peaceful world compels the viewer sympathize with Latham and inspires affection and admiration for these works. I attended a lecture on astrophysics last year and learned that we are all made of stars, literally. Our bodies are composed of matter left over from expired stars. Though idealistic, Latham’s interest in the connection between the universe and human behavior thus appeals to our essence, strips us bare and exposes truth.

Best in New York?

Former Gawker editor Joshua Stein compares his favourite eateries in New York to New York Magazine's recent selections.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ballet at The Royal Opera House


by Sarah Pasetto

The Royal Opera House has a reputation for putting on very traditional, if excellent, performances. Yet, the first piece was a new production by Christopher Wheeldon, a 33-year old choreographer and was widely critically acclaimed.

The stage greets spectators with bareness and neutrality of colour, presenting only a large prism of a projector screen; the opening sounds were not the polyphony of the orchestra, but rather voices - the dancers’ own monologues, each interpellated by Wheeldon for their thoughts on the nature of professional ballet. And thus reflections on ballet as a calling, on the divorce between stage and natural persona, between beauty portrayed and the quasi-self-annihilation necessary to convey such beauty, lyrically accompanied piano compositions by JS Bach and Steve Reich. Although an interesting excursion into the minds of the dancers, one cannot help feeling that these reflections, a tad predictable, were the (only) weak point of the production. The opening performances themselves were solos by each of the four dancers, and characterised by interaction between the live dancers and their recorded projections shone onto the prism, thus heightening the interior/exterior dichotomy underlying the production. Eric Underwood’s performance shone particularly as an elegant harnessing of raw power. Yourcenar’s Hadrian springs to mind, as a combination within a single soul of a uniquely refined aesthetic and intellectual sensitivity on the one hand, and primal lust for hunting on the other. In the second part of the piece, Underwood’s partner Zenaida Yanukowsky was perfectly suited to him for fluidity and strength. The ensembles featured fascinating plays on traditional ballet figures, for example exasperating the moves into slow motion or innovatively angular shapes; your reviewer ventures to note a few movements of vaguely animalesque inspiration. The spareness of the stage and costumes, resembling rehearsal wear, left centre stage to the sinuous convolutions of the human body - passion and force tempered by craft - in what was a truly impressive and captivating performance.

Afternoon of a Faun was the second piece in line. This spoke of the first visitations of love, in the unearthly form of Sarah Lamb, which catch the young Faun (Carlos Acosta) completely unawares. The curtain opens to another simple stage, this time a white, brightly-lit dance rehearsal studio, in which the olive body of the Faun lazily dozes, his back to the audience. Soon he awakens to begin his cheeky antics, but soon he is overcome again by slumber. Only to be chanced upon, perhaps in dream or in reality (the truth is ambiguous, but so can be the truth of love, blurred by thought and time), by a slender, classically ethereal figure with long golden hair, pale skin and doe eyes. The emotions come alive through both facial and bodily expressions - a pensive look, a concupiscent tilt of the head. Both are new to love, both are intrigued, attracted to each other and to the interaction. They yield, only for Lamb to suddenly restrain herself and flee, sorry but determined, leaving the Faun to his disappointment.

Tzigane was possibly the least interesting of the pieces. The exoticism and fire in the solo moves of the female lead (Marianela Nuñez) gradually dispelled as the ballet unraveled. Nevertheless, especially noteworthy was the virtuoso solo violin performance of Sergey Levitin. In addition, the piece remains an interesting exploration of the forms typical of folk dance within a ballet context.

A Month in the Country adapted Turgenev’s homonymous play. This, in terms of context, was possibly the most classically-set piece. The scene opens to a lively afternoon in a wealthy Russian household, with dancing, outdoor games and other amusements for the parents, their child, their ward and the tutor. Particularly delightful was Victoria Hewitt cast as Katia, the brisk but boisterous and coquettish maid. The familial bliss is disrupted - and the musical score does not fail, perhaps even a little too obviously, to anticipate that this is indeed a turn for the worse - by the arrival of a dark stranger: Rakitin, the maverick, passionate alternative to the wife Natalia’s content but placid existence, played by a superb, imperious David Pickering. Unfortunately she does not play her cards well enough for either of them to be appeased, and is ultimately left on her own. Alexandra Ansanelli, in the role of the wife, is supple, swift and elegant. However, it is felt that she still has some scope for disambiguation and depth of emotion.

Reined in as I was to traditional notions of ballet as a means of expressing a two-hour long story, I was initially vaguely sceptical on the appeal of an assemblage of four brief pieces. But rarely has curiosity ever been more rewarding - the evening was a true revelation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Beautiful Artifice at the Frick

ART New York

“A Beautiful Artifice” Charms Visitors of the Frick

"A Beautiful Artifice"
The Frick
1 East 70th Street
On view until April 27, 2008

by Val Bitici

As a New Yorker, I am blessed to be able to frequent and know well the great art museums in my city. With my tastes always fervently skewed towards Renaissance and Baroque art, I grew to love the Frick Collection soon after I was first allowed through its doors at the age of ten. With over a decade of monthly visits to the collection under my belt, I am often eager to see their special exhibitions. So when I heard that Parmigianino’s Antea was traveling on special loan from the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples to New York, it was without question that I visit her.

Antea’s combination of loveliness and strangeness is a most alluringly unnerving juxtaposition. She stands life-sized at the center of the oval room at the Frick and captivates us from the moment we enter her space. The sitter, a young, fair and rosy-cheeked beauty, is all at once palpable and elusive. Her head is disproportionately smaller than her stocky, almost masculine body, and her right shoulder is jarringly broader than her left. Yet she shows no shame for her peculiar appearance. Draped in jewels and swathed in a fur stole and luxurious garments of gold satin and embroidered cloth, she is a vision of wealth forever setting her apart from the stark space that she inhabits. Her eerily candid stare informs us that she in not at all concerned with her own surroundings. As her left hand absent-mindedly fumbles with the gold chain around her neck, Antea’s gaze peers beyond the threshold of her own space and into ours. With this, the line between reality and idealism wavers between stringency and ambiguity. The sitter’s identity is unknown and mysterious, yet her regal demeanor gives her an unmistakably earned presence. Parmigianino has painted her as an ideal vision of beauty and strength. Hence Antea, as the curator of the show has described her, is an “artifice.” She is the enigmatic archetype of an ethereal beauty, obtainable only through this painted masterpiece and isolated from all that we know.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Exhibition Announcement: Displaced Present Joseph Akel, Venice

In the past, displaced have curated shows in Milan, as well as other venues in Venice


on 15 march 2008 at 19.00 the work of joseph akel

Displaced is composed of curators diana cordoba and claire shea. It was born out of a desire to work together to exhibit the work of contemporary artists whom we know and whose work we respect.

The name displaced refers to two things. It alludes to the fact that we are both émigrés in a foreign country and that we do not have a gallery space out of which we operate. Rather, we find a particular space for each exhibition. Depending upon the artist's practice, we either challenge the artist to develop work particular to the space or select works to feature.

Opening on March 15, 2008, the exhibition of Akel's work will feature 15 photographs from two series of Akel's work, American Magic and Dread and Nocturne, which make up a larger body of work entitled Twilight Years. In this series, Akel investigates notions of temporality and human nature through his exploration of the American West and now, Venice.

we sincerely look forward to your presence at spiazzi. castello 3865. venezia, italia

for a map of the location please click:,+venezia&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=32.527387,63.369141&ie=UTF8&ll=45.435472,12.348375&spn=0.007032,0.015471&t=h&z=16&iwloc=addr

for a link to the gallery website please click:

claire shea + diana cordoba

Friday, February 29, 2008

Gustave Courbet at The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

ART: New York

Gustave Courbet
February 27, 2008–May 18, 2008
Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

by Melissa Passman

Inescapably plastered across the cover of the exhibition catalogue, posters, and signs leading me to the exhibition, Gustave Courbet’s visibly tortured and fraught visage stares out, confronting me at all angles, capturing the public’s attention. With a well-documented affinity for self-promotion, it is no surprise that Courbet represents himself as the public face of the exhibition. Having already seen the previous incarnation of this exhibition in Paris’ Grand Palais, I entered the Met’s galleries with great curiosity to discover what alterations had been made to the intricate arrangement of the paintings, and with greater anticipation, what pieces had been allowed to travel across the Atlantic. It was a pleasant surprise then to find that greeting me once again was a room of Courbet’s provocatively indulgent self-portraits, one of the greatest rewards of this retrospective, the first in over 30 years. The curator’s inclination to declare Courbet’s modernity is immediate – these self-portraits beg to be compared to Cindy Sherman’s gallery of personalities.

Following this dramatic entrance, the thematically divided rooms cover a broad range of subjects, from his equally sensational nudes to thriving landscapes, Courbet’s meandering oeuvre leaves no category untried.

Baudelaire’s essay “The Painter of Modern Life” aptly characterizes Courbet’s agenda, namely to substitute the grand themes of history painting for the more immediate realities of France. Walking from room to room, the intensity of paint viscerally confronts the viewer with a force that had not been present before this moment. Most compellingly, the numerous connections to the burgeoning history of photography, an active presence in France since its invention in 1839, draws the lineage for multimedia influence and the enormous effect that this new form of capturing reality had on the once-dominant form of preserving historical moments.

Despite all of these compelling intersections of forms, unsurprisingly the crowds swelled as I entered the room containing art history’s best known work of pornography, "L’Origine du Monde." A blunt portrayal of gender, this small painting signifies both the potential of life and inevitable death in terse terms. Owned by Jacques Lacan prior to entering the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, this commissioned work is ensconced on a small wall facing the photographs that served as his sources, along with a peep show apparatus set up to replicate the furtive actions of the audience for them.

It is perhaps these paintings, most prominently “Sleep” which features two women, one still in stockings, more than even the self-portraits that present the strongest argument for Courbet’s grip on contemporary painting most notably, with John Currin’s most recent work. The ongoing fascination with paint, flesh, and above all, fresh engagements with the physical immediacy of paint as a tool for representation, confirm Courbet’s status as the progenitor of a highly adaptable form of painting whose repercussions continue to fascinate today.

Independent Cinema at the Berlinale

The International Herald Tribune has an interesting video on what is being shown at the Berlinale, including the amazing Isabella Rossellini as a spider

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Peggy Guggenheim Collection Internship, Venice

by Jason Marquis

in which our New York correspondent gives insight on what to expect from an internship at the Venetian museum

As they say, sometimes you get more than you bargain for. My internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice was just such an occasion. This internship was, at times, worse than the “I- only-make-photocopies” kind we all dread. To work at the Guggenheim is to volunteer for hours of mindless guarding. That’s right: guarding. Somewhere along the line, someone capitalized on what a real money-saver the internship program could be. It was rare during my stay to get the opportunity to work in the director’s office or even with the registrar. The lucky few who did, had contacts at Sotheby’s or a trustee in their family; the art-world is far from fair in that regard. No doubt my situation was made all the more grim be the fact that I couldn’t speak Italian for weeks.

My only stimulation and gratification came from the tours I organized at the palazzo-turned-museum. I was given free reign to lecture on Modernism, museology and the Guggenheim family. My favorite stories (and the audience’s as well) were about Peggy’s open sex life. For example, a young woman once attempted to embarrass her at a Venetian masquerade by quipping from across the diner table, “So how many husbands have you had?” The quick-witted heiress responded, “Sorry dear, did you mean mine, or Others’?”

For as much as the Guggenheim abuses its internship program, the coincidental opportunities it provided went well beyond my expectations. The real reward for my work there laid outside what the museum could offer. I lived in Venice! I rode a boat to work every morning up the Grand Canal. I had a café where they knew me by name. I had libraries full of art historical texts at my fingertips: catalogs bursting with ideas. My apartment was a step from the American Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, so I walked right over, asked for a job, and they gave it to me sight unseen. I met Ellsworth Kelly, Anish Kapoor, Zada Hadid, Matthew Barney and was humbled by my idols’ humanity.

Above all, I enjoyed the people; the only redeeming characteristic to the internship at the Peggy Guggenheim is its cosmopolitanism. Australians, Austrians, Americans, Britons, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Canadians, French, Latvians and Norwegians (just to name a few of the nationalities) composed the greatest amalgamation of art-minded individuals I have ever known. We stood on our feet all day looking at art, barking at visitors with curious fingers, and would afterward go for drinks to do the incredible: talk art. I’m not ashamed to admit I learned more about my field in those months abroad than I have in all my undergraduate schooling.

I drank spritz with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s family and young collectors from California and England; toasted Thomas Krens, Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, below a Tiepolo ceiling in a 17th century Palazzo; I went to the beach on Lido every afternoon and met artists and editors I now work with.Sure enough, working at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was Hell, but sometimes a bargain with the Devil has its rewards.

Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon

by Val Bitici

A rush of excitement hits me as I walk the red carpet past paparazzi into the Ziegfeld Theatre for the premier of Julian Schnabel’s film Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon. When I enter the theater, I am not at all surprised to see it filled with the top names of fashion, art and film. On one side of the room Zac Posen is shaking hands with Matt Dillon, while three rows in front of him Mario Testino is sitting in an aisle seat engrossed in deep conversation with a well-dressed friend. I locate my assigned seat and am switching off my cell phone as a woman sits in the empty seat next to me. Turning to face her, I smile and say a neighborly “hello” before realizing that it is Chloë Sevigny, award winning actress and style icon. I suppress a gasp of incredulity and try to act normal. After Mr. Schnabel makes a speech describing the inspiration he gleaned from his relationship with his father to make the film, the lights dim and Chloë and I settle into our seats.

Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon is a moving account of human suffering and curtailed existence. Actor Mathieu Amalric captivates us as Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French Elle editor-in-chief whose sparkling life is unexpectedly brought to a standstill by a paralyzing stroke. Suffering from “locked-in” syndrome, Bauby is left with physical control over only his left eye and his mind. Schnabel’s adaptation of the book, written by the almost completely impaired Bauby after his stroke, is a chronicle of life, past and present, almost entirely through the patient’s perspective. Bauby communicated his story with the help of a transcriber who said the letters of the alphabet and waited for him to blink at hearing each letter he wanted to use. Thus slowly and painstakingly he authored the tremendous accomplishment Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon.

Schnabel’s vision of this unique record comes together as he makes the right choices with cinematography, lighting, and even language. Originally written in English by Ron Harwood, the script was translated into French per Schnabel’s adamant request to remain true to Bauby’s story. The effect is one of complete entrapment in the body and mind of the former magazine editor. From the first moment we meet the main character as he catches a glimpse of his pale, horrific appearance in a mirror, we see all that he sees and feel all that he feels. Trapped in his thoughts, Bauby constantly travels through memory and reality as he relives his past and examines his present circumstances. As he straddles the line between these worlds, Bauby takes the viewers along for an intense roller-coaster ride of emotions. Otherwise known as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Schnabel’s film captures poignantly the main character’s simultaneous sense of bodily entrapment and freedom of imagination. While imprisoned as if in a diving bell by his stroke, Bauby is also set free like a butterfly through his own thoughts. I do not think it possible for Schnabel, or anyone else, to pay a more beautiful homage to Bauby and his literary masterpiece. As everyone else in the Ziegfeld that evening, Chloë and I found ourselves teary eyed with both sorrow and hope as the Oscar-nominated film came to an end.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Bluegrass Tavern - Lexington, Kentucky

The Bluegrass Tavern
115 Cheapside
Lexington, KY 40507

by Shayla Lawson

I can give you good reasons why a woman drinks bourbon. But you need only one. It is the kind of drink you have a relationship with—you get a taste of it, you break up, you get back together all in one glass. Although not the most widely known, it is arguably one of the most well-respected of the five major types of whiskey and the only spirit native to the United States. Kentucky distills 95% of the world’s bourbon. Whiskey does not have to come from the great Bluegrass State to acquire the name bourbon, contrary to what a hometown girl like myself might tell you, but if you find bourbon distilled anywhere else I would not recommend drinking it.

“Bourbon is like candy,” says Nathan Barker, bar tender at the Bluegrass Tavern. Opened in January 2007, the independent bar owned by Larry Redmond celebrates bourbon’s Kentucky heritage. I visit the bar an hour before its Saturday night opening and ask Nathan for tasting tips. If you want to drink bourbon in the social environs most closely akin to how Kentuckians do, this is the place to come. The bar is warm and well lit. It has a faint oak scent complimented by the dark cherry stain of the bar counter and a clean seating arrangement fashioned from bar stools and reclaimed bourbon barrels. Bourbon is not flamboyant liquor. It has never really had its day as the go-to drink of the hipster crowd. Kentuckians typically share bourbon after dinner with friends or by leaving a bottle beside the Coca-Cola at family gatherings for the older folks (and the adventurous bad cousins). Like the Bluegrass Tavern it is quiet, internal, and enjoyable.

Nathan pulls out two shot glasses. He pours Basil Hayden’s 80 proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey and the Thomas H. Handy 134 proof Straight Rye Whiskey in each for comparison. Bourbon must come from a mash of at least 51% corn and contain an alcohol percentage of at least 80 proof. It has a nose and a mouth, like wine. I put my nose over the Basil Hayden’s as instructed. It is tan in color and sweet with a hint of licorice. It has a taste reminiscent of Sambuca but decidedly more visceral. Even at its mildest, bourbon has a complexity not kind to those who trust their front palette. The taste that hits the tongue is smooth but momentarily painful. Its heat settles in the stomach much lower than other liquors. The 134 proof Thomas H. Handy Sazerac felt like drinking a really fantastic western. It had the translucent color of dried magnolia petals in the glass. On the way down it tasted like smoke.

“Older men will come in here and they won’t even talk,” says Nathan describing the Tavern’s clientele of bourbon aficionados. A mature bourbon drinker usually prefers it neat (straight) from a snifter and will spend 45 minutes to an hour on one glass. But the Bluegrass Tavern does not discriminate. In addition to a selection of 162 bourbon varieties, and counting, it also has a full-service bar. As I prepare to leave, Nathan serves an already inebriated couple a bottle of Bud light and a pint Stella Artois on tap.

Drink Suggestions

A Manhattan—The Bourbon Cocktail
Bourbon with a touch of sweet vermouth, shaken, with a three cherry garnish in a martini glass lined with grenadine.

Mint Julep—The Horse Racing Mojito
Bourbon poured over crushed ice mixed with mint leaves and granulated or cane sugar.

Bourbon Barrel Beers
Beers brewed from the charred-oak barrels of finished bourbon batches. Incredible. I am a long time fan of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale for its sweet, elegant texture, but the The Bluegrass Tavern introduced me to the Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Jefferson Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout. It has a rich coffee bean flavor that catapulted Guinness and Young’s Double Stout out of position as my favorite dark beers.

Sources/ Additional information:
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association website
“Straight, or with a Splash of History.”
“The Best Bourbons"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pina Bausch at Sadler's Wells, London

Pina Bausch
Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4TN

by Ana Vukadin

I had been looking forward to seeing Pina Bausch at Sadler’s Wells since November, when I first booked the ticket for her Café Muller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975). So overjoyed was I, that I decided to buy the £4 programme and didn’t even notice the little white note, so cheekily inserted inside the booklet. Once seated comfortably in my first circle seat, I opened the programme and the note flew out: ‘due to an indisposition, Pina Bausch will not be performing tonight. She will be replaced by Helena Pikon’. “What?! No Pina!! But I came here to see Pina!!” I though indignantly.

Moments later, the lights went out and Café Muller began. Every disappointment evaporated and I found myself lost in what I can only describe as one of the most moving performances I have ever seen in my life. An empty café filled with wooden chairs and tables is the set for the entrancing movements of three men and three women, to music by Henry Purcell. Two women and a man appear to be sleepwalking, as they dance with closed eyes, while the other three attempt in vain to protect them by rushing about chaotically, overturning the chairs and tables in their way. The sudden spurts of dancing, alternating between slow and fast, small and large movements, are abruptly ended by collapsing on the floor or slumping against walls. They feel like intense moments of a desire to feel, to live, to love, which then spiral into emptiness. The frequent repetition only emphasizes this sensation. One of the most poignant sequences is between two lovers, who are passionately and desperately drawn to one another, while another tries to keep them apart, knowing that their love is ultimately destructive. The two are finally locked in a tragic dance of intense embraces, and painful flinging of each other against the wall, alluding perfectly to the complexities, anxieties and impossibilities of love.

While Café Muller is a deeply personal performance, in a surreal and dreamlike setting, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is more traditional – if such a word can be used on Tanztheater Wuppertal productions – in the sense that Pina Bausch clearly follows the story Stravinsky narrates with his music: a pagan ritual between two tribes of men and women ending with the rapture of a virgin destined to dance till exhaustion until she is sacrificed. However, the way the story is treated, from the stage being covered in fresh earth, to the individual expressiveness of each dancer is pure Pina. The dancers, sixteen women and sixteen men, are all entranced in a manic, erotic and gripping pagan dance, which perfectly mirrors the feral intensity of the music, and entirely draws you in.

The amazing thing about Pina Bausch’s choreography is that you are moved to tears, smiles, alarm, fear – any number of emotions – without really being able to say why. Perhaps the reason it penetrates us so is because fractions of the pieces stir up some memory in our subconscious, and as we are about to grasp it, some other graceful movement has brought up some other memory. And so it goes...Hers is a performance which is not meant to be interpreted. As Pina herself puts it so accurately, “when the dancer gives his or her response, the response concerns everyone”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


by Jason Marquis

I take issue with the disturbing fact that, despite the advance of Postmodernism, there are elements of our culture steeped in 18th century Enlightenment. We continue to speak and write of our thoughts and the things and spaces about us in dualist oppositions: good vs. bad, mind vs. matter, institution vs. the public. The masses are at odds with the institution in this paradigm. They are pupils to be instructed in culture by a master and schooled in the meaning of their shared history, making communication a one-way, fascist affair.

Derivative of enlightened rationalism, the museum is an institution that seeks out constants: steady principals that buttress the posthumous histories of past civilizations (histories that validate the position of our own). Therefore, criticism in the museum context, taking the form of exhibitions and permanent displays, is often an attempt to discover the universal values that inform artistic practice; something philosophers have raked out time and again in circular discussions of aesthetic theory.

But the modern man, as described by Baudelaire and contextualized by Foucault, does not seek outside himself for truth and discovery; rather he “invents” himself; or perhaps in this postmodern period he ‘re-invents’ himself. “This modernity does not ‘Liberate man in his own being’; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.” (Rabinow, 46). Due to this critical ontological shift (which took place three decades ago!), ought museums critique history less (that is, in the search for universal truths: building generalities from specifics), and refocus on the reasons why humans say, think and achieve what they do in the field of art? It’s time we reevaluate the way we use history in public art spaces to bring them in line with modern theories of critique.