Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dean Street

As I mentioned last week, my ol' stomping grounds are suddenly becoming the place to be. Shocking! Last week, just blocks from the aforementioned Hanson Dry, Dean Street opened in the old Tavern on Dean building, with The Spotted Pig's Nate Smith signed on as head chef, and his wife Sophie Kamin of Four & Twenty Blackbirds as pastry chef. Again, SHOCKING. (I actually had no idea that Tavern on Dean had closed, but to be honest, I was okay with it. They weren't all that friendly there.)

The menu is tiny-- one fish option, one pasta, a rocking burger, two salads, etc. The decor is minimal, which serves to lovingly recognize the beautiful old bar and dark woodwork that Tavern on Dean never quite understood. The apple pie is outstanding, and the fries still resemble potatoes. The staff is green, to say the least, but they will get better.

Smith's menu seems to reflect the new Brooklyn standard of good food made well-- a simpler dining option, consciously removed from the decedent and overly sauced Spotted Pig. (He brought along the deviled eggs though, and thank goodness for that.)

The best part? Dean Street is eons away from anything else. It's a little gem just off Atlantic (the dodgy end) that aims to serve locals without pomp. Let's go back soon.

**That salad photo is not from Dean Street, but I didn't bring my camera and there isn't another photo to be found! Why is no one writing about this place? Lovely Day: on the pulse.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

George Condo: Mental States

The New Museum was the place to be last night for the opening party of George Condo's new exhibition, Mental States. The Art World's darlings set the tone for an evening of pomp and intrigue resulting in the best show I've seen at the New Museum thus far. I had been eagerly anticipating Condo's work since this fantastic piece in the New Yorker and was floored by the quality and resonance of his paintings up close.

Condo shied away from labeling the exhibition a retrospective, instead calling it a “conceptual portraiture survey” of work over the past thirty years. Divided into four sections-- the strongest of which being the fourth floor's salon style arrangement-- the show explores Condo's take on Old Master portraiture while the rest of the world was painting soup cans.

He ran around with Taaffe and Basquiat and Haring, and once pulled prints for Warhol himself. Yet unlike so many of his pals, Condo remains extremely contemporary--proven by Kanye, if no one else. His current work seems to be stretching further from portraiture into fantasy and otherworldly creatures tapped by his signature raw, languid emotion. It's electric-- all of it-- a rare look at painting through the lens of a downtown artist who's absolutely still got it.

Mental States is showing at The New Museum through May 8, 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Art Palm Beach

I'm back in NY after a few days in Florida attending Art Palm Beach. I spent two days winding my way through booths, chatting up dealers, and enjoying those balmy January evenings.

These niche satellite fairs are inevitably much more conservative than their New York/Miami/Basel counterparts, and less shocking to say the least. Palm Beach's scene is much... shinier. It's art that we want to own, live with, hang over our sofas. Rothko called this category of work 'mantle paintings' for that very reason. Yes, he meant it as an offensive critique, but there is a time and a place for art that we relate to on a aesthetically visceral level.

The art was good. It was solid, clean, and worthy. But as wonderful as it felt to sip coffee at 9am by a turquoise pool, I'll be ready for something a little less shiny come March.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hanson Dry

Since my departure last April, Clinton Hill appears to have gotten noticeably cooler. First Fulton Grand, then Brooklyn Victory Garden, then Beny's, and now THIS!? When I lived in Clinton Hill, the best thing on Fulton was Clean Rite University. And Putnam Candy Store.

Al, Beth, and I tried Hanson Dry for the first time last week, pleased as punch to be drinking fancy cocktails so close to home. (Well, Al's home. I had to take the G.) The dark and manly interior fits nicely with the current 60's Mad Men trend sweeping the borough and I hope it sticks around. It was kind of empty that Friday.

We tried to order drinks based on our personalities, but failed miserably. I ordered the 'classic' (ha!), Alison opted for the 'even' (sorry, but no.) and Beth tried the 'stealthy' (fail.) Tasty, though, every one of them.

Next time I'll bring my camera (there isn't a single current photo out there!) and I think I'll try the Kaboom. Sounds about right.

Jim Campbell: Scattered Light

Madison Square Park continues their impressive public art program with Jim Campbell's 'Scattered Light' installation, up through February. Kate and I wandered that way a few weeks ago on an indulgent day off packed with brunch, pedicures, art, and Tempranillo. It was January 3rd and the rest of the city was still hungover, leaving Manhattan empty and big for the two of us. I liked that day.

Campbell's interest is in 'low resolution imagery'. He aims to test visual perception and the amount of information required to make an image recognizable in the human mind. The result is a shimmering block of hanging bulbs that project images--ever so slightly-- of passing figures. One can't help but nod at Felix Gonzalez Torres (whose photos of light bulbs I have hanging above my bed) although conceptually Campbell seems to pointedly direct our thoughts, while Torres blows off his commentary like those fluffy white dandelions. I actually prefer Torres, but I'll spare you that lecture.

The work shines from the center of the great lawn of Mad Sq Park, where we of course aren't allowed walking access, but view its undulating light from the periphery. It's undoubtedly brilliant there in the moonlight, shining on the snow, but perhaps turns a little too 'holiday' in this context. I'd like to see it in the summertime when light is less nostalgic, less comforting. We could sit there and split a milkshake and consider Campbell's influence without shivering ourselves into giggles. Just sayin'.

'Scattered Light' is on view at Madison Square Park from now until February 2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daniel Kitson: The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church

"Exploring That Old Knee-Slapper, Suicide."

The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival charges on, and with it, a brilliant performance of what Ben Brantley deftly called 'theatrical urgency'-- Daniel Kitson's The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church.

Aside from the bits of sparkling review found on the theater's website, I had no real prior knowledge of Kitson or his show before freezing my way to St. Ann's on Wednesday night. The site also holds and a brief yet poignant description that summed up the show as 'a story of death postponed by life.' It's a one man show about the discovery of over 15,000 suicide notes written by Gregory Church (and another 15,000 or so responses) in a loft in West Yorkshire.

Under The Radar: Keepin' it random.

Daniel Kitson enters the arena setup of St. Ann's with a glass of water, a reporter's notebook, and what we can only assume are the same clothes he put on upon waking that morning. He sports a full beard, shaggy hair, thick rimmed frames, and a slightly awkward yet confident gait-- he's someone who touches his face a lot, who shoves up his glasses at the arch, and fidgets with his keys at the dinner table. Those initial moments of 'Hello, I'm Daniel, thank you all for coming, I hope you like it," made us all relax into the evening knowing that, yes, we know this guy, and yes, we're interested in what he has to say. He's someone with whom we'd get along.

He begins the show hurriedly with the back story of what becomes an obsessive and ultimately voyeuristic two year journey as the self appointed curator the life of Gregory Church. We expect Kitson to at some point relax as well, to catch up with himself and his telling, but he instead charges rampantly on, as if his mind works faster than the average human, and his speech-- graced with a stunning vocabulary and illustrative structure-- can't quite keep up. The result is 90 minutes of uninterrupted explosive storytelling that I wish I could rewind and watch again. It happens fast-- yours truly let her mind wander twice and missed two extremely important points that I had to piece together later with research and conversation. It's that smart, it's that good.

The life of Gregory Church-- that we know only through the letters as told by Kitson-- touches on the ol' George Bailey model: 'Remember George, No man is a failure who has friends'. We meet Church as a retired, unhappy, miserable old man who plans to kill himself by noose the next morning, after writing a few (56, initially) suicide notes. We leave knowing that those 56 notes expanded to 30,000 and that Church lived on to experience a life parenthesized by his impending death. It's poignant, touching, and humbling to unravel a tale of two men-- one obsessively writing, the other obsessively reading-- whose lives become entwined by relationships alone.

Yet therein exists a third layer to this web of understanding. The catch here (catch is probably the wrong word, but bear with me) is that Kitson mentioned in his opening remarks that the entire play to follow is fiction-- that he made it all up. Although unlike any other work of fiction or novel, or various other styles of created prose, this performance in particular feels outrageously true. I've been trying to nail down why it's more difficult to believe it to be fiction that not (usually its the other way around). I suppose it is simply a testament to Kitson's performance.

The show ended as abruptly as it began, with a quick 'well, that's what I wanted to tell you, that's the story, I hope you enjoyed it.' (Further convincing us of its truth! He didn't even think of a poetic ending!) Although the swift exit left my head spinning for the entire walk home, unsure of what just happened, wishing I could ask more questions, wanting to see those letters myself-- just as Kitson intended.

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church is playing through Jan 30th at St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO.

photo: NYT

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What!? Is this real?

Please say no.

Yeah, I'm going with 'no'.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marcel the Shell at Sundance

Guess who is going to Sundance (besides John)? Marcel! I am so happy for him! (her?)

And how gorgeous is that poster? I want one for my bedroom.

In case you aren't going to Sundance, and in case you aren't one of the lucky few that I've tied down and forced to watch this with me, here it is again for your viewing pleasure:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)

Gob Squad's Kitchen is showing as part of the Public Theater's Under The Radar Festival right now in the Village. I attended the performance Saturday night knowing very little about the festival or the troupe, but left fully convinced of Under The Radar's spirit and intention.

The ultimate goal of UTR is to 'offer a crash course in theater that is exciting, independent, and experimental.' The Gob Squad, one of 20 or so invited artist groups, is a traveling troupe of British and German artists working collectively with video, installation, and theater to explore the 'complexities and absurdities' of various pop culture phenomenons-- in this case, Andy Warhol's film 'Kitchen'.

The play has been called a 'live film', as the audience views the play on a screen placed in front of the actual set. We entered the space through the infamous 'factory', before taking our seats facing a screen that-- after a round of technical difficulties that I swore were part of the act (they weren't)-- projected the action in a grainy yet illuminate black and white picture. Smart indeed.

The tone isn't unlike Jemaine and Bret's Flight of the Concords-- a performance that doesn't take itself at all seriously about people who take themselves extremely seriously. The result is an endearing yet extremely silly observation of real people, acting themselves, in an otherwise banal setting. That silliness is the saving grace of the depiction of Warhol's world of foggy, confused pretension. No one REALLY wants to watch those old films without some sort of mind altering aid, come on. But we do want to know about it. So what the Gob Squad handed us instead was a recreation. And it worked.

Edie Sedgwick was there, among others, in black tights, a pixie cut, and aloof giggles. Yet instead of playing Edie by the book, the Gob Squad shifted her into 'Sharon', who gives us a solid footing that Sedgwick would never yield to. I laughed aloud for much of the 90 minutes, delighted by the little inside jokes about Warhol and the 60s and the feminist movement and basic human tendency. There was an element of audience participation, and a three minute kiss, and many references to 'others watching it in 100 years', which seems to be as far into the future as people dared to consider mid-century. Those tiny observations, spewed from the mouths of very sweet British and German actors, gave structure and meaning to an otherwise random piece of theater.

Gob Squad's Kitchen is silly, lasting, and smart. I can only imagine what the other 19 Under the Radar are handing out for free (well, like $15, which is amazing). The festival lasts through the 16th, and tickets can be found here. GO.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

At the Restaurant

Jonathan and Laura brought up this Stephen Dunn poem on New Year's Eve while discussing our favorite writers. Dunn's work, albeit remarkably approachable, remains a rare truth in contemporary prose. He never gets pretentious-- I love that about him.

Laura called him an 'old mountain man who writes about his feelings'. I like that too. This poem in particular touches on The Human Condition in its most glorious form. It's about dreading small talk at dinner parties and aching for sincerity in a world so neglectful of such things. That last line kills me--

"Inexcusable, the slaughter of this world.
Insufficient, the merely decent man."


(My New Years Eve, by the way, was in no means a reflection of the poem below. Incidentally, it was one of the most enjoyable New Years I've ever had, partially because we skipped over formalities and went straight to discussing poetry.)

At the Restaurant
by Stephen Dunn

“Life would be unbearableif we made ourselves conscious of it.”– Fernando Pessoa

Six people are too many people
and a public place the wrong place
for what you’re thinking–

stop this now.

Who do you think you are?
The duck à l’orange is spectacular,
the flan the best in town.

But there among your friends
is the unspoken, as ever,
chatter and gaiety its familiar song.

And there’s your chronic emptiness
spiraling upward in search of words
you’ll dare not say

without irony.
You should have stayed at home.
It’s part of the social contract

to seem to be where your body is,
and you’ve been elsewhere like this,
for Christ’s sake, countless times;

behave, feign.

Certainly you believe a part of decency
is to overlook, to let pass?
Praise the Caesar salad. Praise Susan’s

black dress, Paul’s promotion and raise.
Inexcusable, the slaughter of this world.
Insufficient, the merely decent man.