Friday, June 26, 2020

Cocktails, Steaks, Tacos, and Cold Beer: Ed Ruscha's 'L.A. Restaurants' [Map]

Philippe, the home of epic French-dipped sandwiches, on February 14, 2020.

Screenings of the only two films that Ed Ruscha ever made are fairly rare. It’s been about a decade since I was introduced to the pleasures of his two bizarre shorts—Premium (1971) and Miracle (1975)—at Film Forum in New York, and I’ve been hoping to do a repeat viewing ever since. While awaiting that moment, I was recently gobsmacked to learn that Ruscha actually made a new film last year, apparently after a 44-year break. It is titled L.A. Restaurants, it was shot in HD video, and it is streaming through Monday, June 29, on Gagosian’s website. You should watch it.

In classic Ruscha fashion, the work’s title handily describes the proceedings: over the course of about 20 minutes, we’re treated to drive-by views of more than three dozen restos around Los Angeles, like the French-dip haven Philippe (which I just went to for the first time back in February) and the palatial sushi purveyor Yamashiro. These are classic venues—tried and true, charmingly stuck in time, and a joy to visit and revisit with friends. They are exactly what they want to be.
A beautiful Philippe sandwich with coleslaw, pickles, chocolate cake, and a Diet Coke.

Ruscha’s camera, handled by Gregg Heine in a car driven by Gary Regester, glides past these places, often in the middle of the day. People are typically coming and going, but in some shots the boîtes appear to be closed, or they’re just quiet. Conviviality and celebration are out of sight, maybe still a few hours off. Soon, another night of festivities is going to be added to decades of history.

Watching the video during lockdown is a melancholy experience. For months, these restaurants have been shuttered or offering only takeout. Employees have been laid off, some have no doubt gotten sick and died, and it will be some time before these old haunts are thrumming again. Some may never reopen. A deadpan tribute to the city’s storied watering holes (and a study of their architecture) has become something more profound. It’s a time capsule now, and a memorial to the way we used to live.

When restaurants eventually do get fully up and running again—that will be a glorious day—I can't wait to cruise the streets of L.A., trying out locations that Ruscha highlighted and returning to old standbys. (Maybe, in the spirit of the Damien Hirst Spot Challenge, there could even be a modest prize for people who visit every stop.) A map of the restaurants in the video follows below, with addresses beneath it in order of appearance.

Coles: 118 East 6th Street, Los Angeles
Clifton’s Cafeteria: 648 South Broadway, Los Angeles
Philippe: 1001 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles
Eastside Deli: 1013 Alpine Street, Los Angeles
Pantry Cafe: 877 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles
Pacific Dining Car: 1310 West 6th Street, Los Angeles
Langer’s Deli: 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles
Taylor’s: 3361 West 8th St, Los Angeles
Cassell’s: 3600 West 6th Street, Los Angeles
HMS Bounty: 3357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
El Cholo: 1121 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles
Tommy’s: 2575 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles
Little Dom’s: 2128 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles
Dresden: 1760 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles
Tiki-Ti: 4427 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Taix: 1911 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
El Compadre: 1449 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Tam O’Shanter: 2980 Los Feliz Boulevard, Los Angeles
Bob’s Big Boy: 4211 West Riverside Drive, Burbank
Art’s Deli: 12224 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
Jerry’s Deli: 12655 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
Casa Vega: 13301 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
Hamburger Hamlet: 4419 Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
Smoke House: 4420 Lakeside Drive, Burbank
Yamashiro: 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles
Musso & Frank Grill: 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Miceli’s: 1646 North Las Palmas Avenue, Los Angeles
El Compadre: 7408 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Greenblatt’s: 8017 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Rainbow Bar and Grill: 9015 Sunset Boulevard
Formosa: 7156 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
Barney’s Beanery: 1037 Broxton Avenue, Los Angeles
Il Piccolino: 350 North Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood
Dan Tana’s: 9071 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
Troubador: 9081 North Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
Craig’s: 8826 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood
Du-par’s: 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
El Coyote: 7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles
Pink’s: 709 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
Rao’s: 1006 Seward Street, Los Angeles
Marino: 6001 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
Lucy’s El Adobe: 5536 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
Canter’s Deli: 419 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles
Johnie’s: 6099 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
Tom Bergin: 840 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles
Lawry’s: 100 La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills
Lucques: 8474 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood
Ago: 8478 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
Norm’s: 470 North La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood
Nate ’n Al’s: 414 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
Spago: 176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
La Dolce Vita: 9785 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills
Giorgio Baldi: 114 West Channel Road, Santa Monica
Toscana: 11633 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles
Vito: 2807 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica
The Apple Pan: 10801 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles
Rae’s: 2901 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
Chez Jay: 1657 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
The Galley: 2442 Main Street, Santa Monica
James’ Beach: 60 North Venice Boulevard, Venice
Pann’s: 6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles
Randy’s Donuts: 805 West Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood
Versailles: 10319 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles 
Akasha: 9543 Culver Boulevard, Culver City
S&W Country Diner: 9748 Washington Boulevard, Culver City

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dorothy Iannone's Zuppa Inglese

The zuppa inglese. (Food photography: an art I have not yet mastered.)

There are many reasons to love Dorothy Iannone. Now 87, she has spent a lifetime making wildly colorful, utterly captivating artworks that are about pleasure—and that impart pleasure. Everyone is naked in her paintings, and everyone is having a great time, especially the women, who are typically in charge of the scene, reigning as benevolent deities.

Iannone has also been an unwavering crusader against censorship, famously filing the suit in 1961 that led to the overturning of the ban on Henry Miller’s work in the United States.

And there is still more: she is, in addition, a tremendous chef and baker, as evidenced by a hand-drawn cookbook she began assembling in 1968, which was published by JRP Ringier last year. She started on the project, she’s written, because she wanted “to have my favorite recipes always with me when I cooked for my peripatetic beloved who, although he loved the experience of arriving somewhere, loved even more the going away.” (That beloved was artist Dieter Roth.)

During the global lockdown, Iannone’s French gallery Air de Paris, has been blogging up a storm on a page called Open Air, and a few days ago it posted her recipe for the Italian delicacy known as zuppa inglese, a layering of custard and sponge cake. (The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets—which I am thrilled to learn exists—has a great entry on its possible origins. Don’t call it a trifle!)

A close-up, with apricots substituted for peaches.

I attempted to assemble the dessert this week, and while I could not get my cakes to rise quite as much as I would have liked, the result was still satisfying. Give it a try. It takes a bit of time, but requires only a few ingredients, making it ideal for right now.

Iannone’s recipe calls for four layers of cake, each doused with white rum and sandwiched around three layers of custard, flavored respectively with vanilla, more rum, and crème de cacao. The whole pile is then bedecked with a bounty of whipped cream, strawberries, and peaches. (Unable to locate the latter, I opted for apricots.)

At first glance, this is a decadent beast of a dessert, but the sponge and the whipped cream lend the whole affair an airy buoyancy. Not unlike Iannone’s art, it is a sweet committed to gratification that is joyous and light and never weighed down by any notion of guilt. It is also very, very boozy, exuding some of the heady energy of her erotic paintings. Perhaps best of all (and this is very fitting), as the zuppa sits in the fridge longer and longer, it just keeps getting richer and richer, more filled with intricate flavors, more intoxicating.

Previously: a butterscotch pudding celebrated by the great Lutz Bacher, who died exactly one year ago.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Quarantine Qontent

An anonymous art installation in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, April 23, 2020.

Here's a continually updated list of art material to enjoy while galleries are closed. Most of the items resulted from the lockdown; a few other items join them.

  • Artists and Recipes: Artist Abby Lloyd has tapped dozens of artists—Joshua AbelowTisch Abelow, Gina Beavers, and Robin Winters among them—to contribute recipes for a cookbook. Super fun design.
  • Perilla: Edited by curator Jamie Sterns, who runs the enterprising Interstate Projects in Brooklyn, this is a cookbook in the most wonderfully loose sense of the word, with toothsome recipes sharing space with poems, collages, and short essays, by some 30 artists and writers, including Rose Salane, Priscilla Jeong, Bryce Gates, and more. (I contributed an essay on the Stettheimers' dinner parties.)
  • Chicken Soup: Chef Mina Stone, who helms MoMA PS1's delicious cafe, is sharing recipes from artists, including Dara Friedman's “Perfectly Whatever” chicken soup and Anicka Yi's potent, enlivening lemon pasta.
  • Open Air: Paris's excellent Air de Paris gallery, which shows Trisha Donnelly, Lily van der Stokker, and Adriana Lara, has been blogging up a storm, posting videos, poems, drawings, and other material, much of it sent in by its artists. One highlight: Dorothy Iannone's recipe for Zuppa Inglese.
  • "Always on My Mind": Alex Israel files an essay about the first decade of his art, a piece finished while in quarantine lockdown.
  • An Empty Met: As New York's cultural institutions go dark, Jason Farago pays a visit to the museum to see Anthony van Dyck's Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo (1624).
  • Helter Shelter: The painter Whitney Claflin speaks with Domenick Ammirati about surviving in New York. "For the past few years, I’ve been living illegally in the leaky garage of a former funeral parlor . . ."
  • Maintenance Art: I wrote about the incredible Mierle Laderman Ukeles and what art can do in a pandemic.
  • Evolution: The dealer Mitchell Algus asks if a more egalitarian art world can emerge from the market's move online.
  • Mortality and the Old Masters: Peter Schjeldahl visits Las Meninas. Heaven.
  • We/Us/Our: Kara Walker on a post-lockdown world.
  • Snoopy: The official Snoopy YouTube channel reveals how to draw the beloved character.
  • Augment the Virtual: The sculptor Ajay Kurian hosts video chats with artists whose shows have been shuttered by the pandemic, like Uri Aran, Brandon Ndife, and Farah Al Qasimi.
  • The Artist's Edit: Gavin Brown's Enterprise has been asking its artists to compile YouTube playlists, which have been very strong. Start with LaToya Ruby Frazier's expansive ode to labor.
  • Whitney Screens: The New York institution is streaming a different video work every Friday at 7 p.m. EDT. Alex Da Corte's majestic Rubber Pencil Devil (2018) kicked off the series.
  • Gerhard Richter Painting: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has this hypnotic documentary free to all.
  • Show & Tell: Public Art Fund curator Daniel S. Palmer has been doing charming video sessions with artists such as Emily Mae Smith and Paa Joe.
  • Film Fridays: Martos Galley is hosting a new video work on its website each Friday, through the weekend. Entries so far have come from Michel Auder and Devin Troy Strother, Mandy Harris Williams, and Alima Lee.
  • The Fine Art Quarantine Coloring Book: organized by curator Brooke Wise, with contributions from Brian Calvin, Hayden Dunham, Hein Koh, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Raymond Pettibon, Robert Nava, Sayre Gomez, and almost 20 more.
  • The Getty Coloring Book: The august L.A. institution is offering a chance to color everything from an ancient Roman mosaic to Vincent van Gogh's Irises (1889).
  • Louise Lawler’s Tracings: the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which hosted a superb survey of the gimlet-eyed photographer's work in 2017, has a dozen tracings of her works that she made in collaboration with Jon Buller. Heavenly.
  • The Studio Museum: The Harlem stalwart has pages, ready to be bedecked with color, from artists like E.B. Lewis and Paul Rogers.
  • High as Fuck: Most online art exhibitions are bland, banal affairs—JPEGs floating in space. Whatever you think of Josh Smith's entry into the field, it is certainly not boring. He's installed his latest paintings and some older ceramics on the roof of his Brooklyn home. In accompanying videos, he is on hand as deadpan narrator and gracious host. A little unhinged, and very wonderful, I say. (Some disagree.) A special bonus: sign the guestbook (in a manner of speaking) and you are sent a printable PDF of the show's pamphlet.
  • Bodybuilding: On its website, Performa is presenting this video-rich exhibition that examines how architects and designers have used performance. The stacked roster has been assembled by Charles Aubin, of Performa, and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco, of ArkDes in Stockholm, as an extension of the eponymous book they edited with RoseLee Goldberg.
  • Something I Saw: Every day, writer and curator Kimberly Drew is mailing an artwork—typically a piquant, poignant one—to your inbox, "until we're done."
  • Creative Capital: The nonprofit has compiled a lengthy, essential list of grants and funding available for people and organizations in the arts and is updating it as new initiatives are announced.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lutz Bacher's Butterscotch Pudding

The pudding.

In 2008, Lutz Bacher, the relentlessly inventive artist who died on Tuesday, presented a recipe for butterscotch pudding as the press release for her show at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. Last night, I made it for the first time, and I cannot recommend it enough. It's extremely rich—1 cup of cream, 2 cups of milk, half a stick of butter—and quite boozy. (Two tablespoons of whisky, scotch, or brandy—I went with Hennessy cognac.) A beguiling depth and a heady kick: that's not unlike Bacher’s art.

Does the recipe tell us anything about her famously varied, enigmatic practice? It’s a fairly straightforward text, but there are two intriguing flourishes.

In its first step, the recipe says that, as you are melting the butter in a saucepan, “Do not let the butter sizzle and separate. If this happens, discard it and get new butter.” Start with the right base, in other words. Do not proceed until it is just right.

But then, in its final step, the tone shifts slightly. After explaining how to avoid having skin form on the pudding’s surface, the text states, “I like a little skin, as it is a defining characteristic of home cooked pudding to me!”

There’s a push-pull there between a taut, concise foundation and letting a little bit of chance, of imperfection, sneak in. It’s tempting to spend some time teasing that out. But then there is also this: a Google search suggests that the recipe originated in a 2006 blog post by the pastry chef Dana Salls Cree.

Did Bacher like the language of the recipe, the resulting pudding, both? I’ve reached out to Cree, who runs a delectable-looking business in Chicago called Pretty Cool Ice Cream, for more information and will update this if I hear back.

Update: Reached by email, Cree told me that she did not know Bacher and was not aware that her recipe had been used in the press release. "I feel incredibly honored to have been woven into her world in some small way," she said.

"In the culinary world you almost always see who you are impacting directly, it is a very personal transaction," she continued. "But with writing your audience is invisible. What a delight to see where one of my recipes landed, and how it took on a new life with this artist's press release. I wonder where it went from there!"

As for her source for the recipe, Cree said that she thought she based it on one by the pastry chef David Lebovitz. "Maybe I’ll make some butterscotch pudding this weekend," she signed off. Having already made a decent dent in my batch, I think I might join her.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Florine Stettheimer: A Map of Public Collections Holding Her Work

Seeing a painting by Florine Stettheimer is a rare pleasure, in at least two distinct senses. First, she was one of the 20th century's true originals, an avowed modernist who created humorous, sensuous, action-packed, rococo scenes of life in the United States. Her works are rich with white and pinks, depictions of friends and family, in-jokes and art-historical allusions. There is no one else like her. But second, she was not particularly prolific, and rarely parted with her paintings. When she died, in 1944, at the age of 72, she still owned most of her works, and it was left to her sister Ettie Stettheimer to decide what to do with them.

Over the next 20 or so years, Ettie, and later, the family's attorney, Joseph Solomon, reportedly donated about 45 works to 37 institutions around the United States, and gave another 50 to Columbia University in New York. After that, they largely sat in storage. But thanks to pioneering writing by Linda Nochlin and Barbara Bloemink, and shows at the ICA Boston, the Katonah Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art, in the 1980s and '90s, museums owning Stettheimers began to display them more regularly. (Lenbachhaus in Munich also organized a remarkable show in 2014, and the Jewish Museum will stage another next year.)

Every time I visit new city, I try to see if a Stettheimer is nearby and pay it a visit while stopping by museums and galleries, but a few times I have had the painful experience of returning home and realizing that I had missed one. And so I have made a little map, embedded above, which shows where Stettheimers are located. It is not quite complete: I have worked off of checklists for various exhibitions featuring her work, but if you know of other places holding her work, please let me know. (A note: both Columbia and the Museum of Modern Art in New York own more pieces than I have added to the map, but I wanted to avoid crowding New York with dots, and it's worth noting that most of those works are rarely available to the public.)

A few Stettheimers are also in private hands, mostly her elegant and amusing paintings of flowers, but also New York/Liberty (1918), which has been on loan in recent years to the Whitney and, most notoriously, Asbury Park South (1920), which Fisk University sold off to help shore up its finances a few years back. Here's hoping that the collectors lucky enough to own a Stettheimer consider finding a nice, loving home for it in a public institution.