Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Alice Neel's Hot-Fudge Sauce

Alice Neel's hot-fudge sauce ornamenting vanilla ice cream Alice Neel's hot-fudge sauce ornamenting vanilla ice cream.

Get ready for a world of pleasure. Alice Neel’s hot-fudge sauce is rich, boozy, and deeply satisfying. Its secret ingredient: a solid splash of rum, which joins together with chocolate, butter, sugar, and corn syrup. The recipe comes from The Museum of Modern Art Artists' Cookbook, which was published in 1977. (The full directions are in this PDF for a catalogue I made a few years ago for a project at Interstate Projects in Brooklyn.)

While warm, the sauce brings a refreshing zest to vanilla ice cream, but it’s when it’s gotten cold, having sat in the fridge overnight, that it gets really great, taking on a luxurious, almost chewy texture that is reminiscent of soft toffee or thick caramel. I found myself eating spoonfuls of it by itself. Atop ice cream in that form, it’s pure heaven—and it looks beautiful, too, like strange black snow adorning a mountain peak. I regret never taking a photograph of that pairing: it was too delicious to stop and think, apparently.

Butter and chocolate melting in a pan Preparing the hot-fudge sauce.

In the cookbook, Neel says, “I never learned to make cakes and pies because after all I’m an artist and couldn’t concentrate on that,” and she adds, “I have privileges, you see, that only men had in the past." It’s impossible not to admire that sentiment. But thank goodness she was willing to grace us with this confection.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Turn the Page: 'The Unknown Dimension' at/by/of Essex Street

From 'The Unknown Dimension,' left: Julia Phillips, Distancer (#3), 2019, glazed ceramics, metal hardware, metal pedestal, sculpture: 2.75 x 18.5 x 6.75 in., pedestal: 37.25 x 25 x 11 in., listening suggestion: Nina Simone's "The Human Touch," 1969; right: Julia Phillips, Soul (work in progress), 2020, bisque fired ceramics, 5.75 x 16.25 x 5.5 in., listening suggestion: Alice Coltrane's "Turiya & Ramakrishna," 1970.

Whenever I hear the words “online viewing room,” I involuntarily think of David Lynch delivering one of his vintage diatribes: “It’s such a sadness that you think you’ve seen a film on your fucking telephone. Get real!”

Of course, not all of the online exhibitions necessitated by corona lockdowns have been bleak. A lot of video art—typically tricky to access—has been streamed by museums and galleries, as I wrote in T magazine. And some artists have inventively tweaked how their art is presented online, like Elizabeth Peyton, who put together a bewitching slide show. Still, it’s been a relief to see more left-field approaches during this painful period of closed storefronts, like the move by New York outfit Essex Street to instead go analog and put together a lively (and, at times, heartrending) exhibition in the form of a handsome book. Titled “The Unknown Dimension” and published in May, it’s more than 200 pages long and has contributions from over 50 invited artists (many of whom sent along never-before-seen material). “Thinking the next best thing to an object is not an online viewing room but a page,” the gallery’s proprietor, Maxwell Graham, writes in the volume. Hear, hear!

The artists’ offerings run alphabetically by first name, which allows sumptuous, quiet paintings of empty interiors by the late Adrian Morris—whose show at Essex Street was cut short by the pandemic—to kick things off.
Carolyn Lazard, Recto Verso, 2020, 1 of 25 photographs, 11 x 9 in., in 'The Unknown Dimension.'

There are a lot of very excellent artists here. B. Wurtz sends along photographs of the fantastical tree-like sculptures he built from colanders and displayed in City Hall Park (now Abolition Park) in Lower Manhattan two years back (via the Public Art Fund). Senga Nengudi gives us an indelible self-portrait of her posing as if in prayer in her backyard in April, covered by a purple veil. Zak Prekop displays luscious details of his inimitable abstractions.

An index at the end of the book provides the requisite credits for the works along with some illuminating information that invites closer looking and deeper research. It was mind-blowing for me to learn that the reverse side of artworks that were photographed by Carolyn Lazard and that contain adorable photos of children (as pictured above) belong to the Antiguan master Frank Walter, who lived from 1926 to 2009. (They were commissioned by the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, which has a Walter retrospective that runs into November: one hopes we lowly Americans will be able to travel to Europe before then.) Julia Phillips, for her part, includes a link to video documentation for some of her art with listening suggestions paired to individual pieces. (See the captions above.)

Graham has also marshaled wonders by deceased luminaries like Bill Bollinger, Sturtevant, and Yutaka Matsuzawa, whose 1970 text piece My Own Death begins, “When you go calmly across this room, go my own death across your mind in a flash of lightning,———that is my future genuine death…”
The cover of 'The Unknown Dimension.'

Some new pieces refer to the ongoing health and economic crises, whether directly or obliquely. John Knight includes an excerpt of Paul Lafargue’s 1883 treatise “The Right To Be Lazy.” Cameron Rowland reproduces the agreement that must be signed by visitors to Hart Island, New York’s heavily restricted public cemetery, where graves are dug by incarcerated people. Maria Eichhorn prints two maps that document the 30 percent drop in pollution that NASA satellites documented in the extended New York metropolitan area this past March versus the average for that month between 2015 and 2019. On a series of successive pages, Louise Lawler is showing a digital photogram of parts of a vinyl record of an Aretha Franklin classic. Its title reads, at the moment, as mordant and dark and maybe even a tiny bit hopeful: "Runnin’ Out of Fools."

As I write, Essex Street, like many New York galleries, has finally reopened to the public, with a strong Park McArthur show. Life is continuing on. "The Unknown Dimension" has a kind of teaser (a non-site?) for one of the works included in McArthur's bracing exhibition, which exists in the physical gallery and on a dedicated website and "elsewhere," as the gallery's press release counsels. Elsewhere is a place where a lot of us find ourselves these days. It's a space and a condition that may be new, discomfiting, and also—just possibly—unifying. Happily, those looking to navigate the gallery version of the show at a distance can book a tour that will take place through Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime.

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.