Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Pictorial Aside: Discovering the Lower East Side, May 16, 2013

Daughter, Carla, and her husband, Matthias were in the City (yes, you know the one to which I refer, The Big Apple) to rehearse before they take what has been solely a studio band--The Book of Knots--up to Victoriaville, Quebec to perform on stage at the Festival Internationale de Musique Actuelle Victoriaville.

Anyway, for the more curious of my readers, here is the url in reference to the Book of Knots playing at the Victoriaville festival. And, if this doesn't satisfy you, here you may sample a bit of their noise (I mean, music; clearly the Book of Knots is not daddy's cup of tea). A more knowledgeable (and obviously younger) writer astutely notes that this piece, entitled Crumble, "sounds like something is very wrong, and beautiful."

Carla Kihlstedt & Matthias Bossi, Riding the #6 Train from the Bronx to the LES, Thursday, May 16, 2013

I truly love everything else that these kids do, and if you want some inkling of their musical range, watch this video of them playing their composition, The Curious One, in the Oakland, CA garden of their friend, Wellington Bowler.

And if you like this, you will love their monthly musical and visual contributions, Rabbit Rabbit Radio, to which you may subscribe for less than a Starbucks cappuccino--and it's so much better for your health, physical and mental.

Freddi Price, Outside of Preserve24, Allen Street, Thursday,  May 16, 2013
Once downtown, we met their friend Freddi Price at the new restaurant, Preserve24, where he has been working for at least a year as the contracting foreman for its challenging renovations. It opened for business on this Thursday evening, and a group of us would later partake of its culinary "maiden voyage," although the rough-and-tough affect of the place--channeling Arctic exploration in all of its decor--might only embrace the word, "maiden," in inappropriate ways.

Freddi took us to a small restaurant for lunch that I want to reference, even though I took no photos of it.  It is a hidden gem.  Its name is Mission Chinese Food,  and its dishes are about as creative--and delicious--as anything I ever have eaten.  The Times' Pete Wells writes this of its chef: "Mr. Bowen does to Chinese food what Led Zeppelin did to the blues. His cooking both pays respectful homage to its inspiration and takes wild, flagrant liberties with it."

When not making money as a building contractor, Freddi is a consummate musician, multi-instrumentalist, composer, actor, puppeteer, general entertainer and raconteur...you name it, he does it.  As a fixture of the Bay Area, he is known for such musical groups as Rube Waddell and Lord Loves a Working Man.  Check the latter group out here on their composition, Got What It Takes

Resting Up, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
After lunch, we split ways, and I wandered the Lower East Side taking in a few hidden gems that this great city always provides.  Below are some photographs of the things that caught my attention in the few hours before we all met up again for dinner.

BBall, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Between contesting fouls and other, sundry disputes, these guys play some pretty good ball.

Couple in the Sun, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Stanton Street Courts, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
A nice spring afternoon provides a young couple some peace in the middle of a soccer field.

Moorish Cornice, 277 Grand Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Here's a cornice that caught my eye.  Most of it is straight classical, consisting of a string course "supported" by fluted console brackets.  But then, those two arches which break out above the roof line, are most un-classical horseshoe arches, in as much as they encompass more than 180 degrees.  Thus they are emblematic of Islamic architecture. This exemplifies the creative flexibility that mid-19th century architects applied to their eclectic designs.

Historiated Transom, Rivington Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Integrated at some later time into this iron lintel are busts of Gandhi and Martin Luther King--at least I assume the head on the right is MLK--a wonderful touch of serendipity in the otherwise functional industrial aesthetic of the area.

Baptismal Graffiti, Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
The floors have barely been poured, and the local graffiti artists have already baptized two floors of this new building.  Their work may be the only thing that connects this structure to the character of the rest of the street and neighborhood.

Hersh's, Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
A wall section like this, with its layers of peeling posters, seduces the collagist eye and makes our urban environment as attractive to some as it might seem messy and unkempt to others.  At the top of this brick pier is a piece of classical design, originating with the Greek Ionic capital, an egg-and-dart motif.  That, combined with the layers of old posters, offers a nice bit of what modernists would call "bricolage."

Aris, A. N. Headwear, 145 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Aris (Aristotle) Negrin, originally an immigrant from northern Greece, has run this delightful and tiny hat shop for decades.  He, and shops like his, are what make the Lower East Side unique. Stop by and talk to him, but keep in mind that there's barely room for more than one customer at a time to step inside. This must be what it was like to shop in a medieval or early Renaissance city.

Tracey Emin, Inside Me, gouache/paper, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 201 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side
I visited two galleries on Thursday.  This, because I was familiar with Lehmann Maupin's West 26th street gallery in Chelsea.  Tracey Emin is a member of the YBA, or Britartists, and is known for her sometimes risque and autobiographical art which focuses on her love life and sexual adventures.

Here, her focus is more internal and psychological, not as overt as in some of her earlier work.  Her hand is deft, and her elongated, angular style recalls the German Expressionists of a century earlier and the Austrian, Egon Schiele.

Dorothy Robinson, Transitional Flow Regime, 2010, oil/canvas, Artifact Gallery, 84 Orchard Street, Lower East Side

Dorothy Robinson, Transitional Flow Regime, detail, oil/canvas, Artifact Gallery, 84 Orchard Street, Lower East Side
The one gallery that I intended to visit was one I had never been to before, the Artifact Gallery, and that's because I know the work of Dorothy Robinson, the painter showing there right now.  Dorothy's paintings manage that most challenging juggling acts--that of being representational while also being abstract.

These are large works, and the one I illustrate in the two photos above is 72" high by 168" across. It is at once a vast and deep landscape of clashing geological formations, yet also consists of a surface activated by the most sensual passages of pure paint. She is what I would term a mark-maker extraordinaire. To quote her, "The seemingly simple act of moving paint around a surface can be completely engaging. It shows me that the conscious mind is just a fraction of a much larger thing that we can’t even begin to comprehend."

How perfect, in that major and lasting works of art--which I consider this to be--always transcend comprehension. Transitional Flow Regime really ought to be in a major museum. If I had a wall big enough for it, I would mortgage something to purchase it!

This show closes on June 2, and I encourage you all to visit Artifact Gallery before then. 

Casa Mezcal, Bar, 80 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013

Casa Mezcal, Bar, Cabinet, 80 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013

Casa Mezcal, Bar, Goddess, 80 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013

Casa Mezcal, Bar, Crucifixion Shrine, 80 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013

Right next door to Artifact Gallery and Dorothy's show is this intriguing Mexican restaurant/bar, Casa Mezcal.  I have yet to eat here, but will very soon, because seldom have I seen a restaurant as visually enticing as this.

I'm no a bar-hopper, but were I living anywhere near here, I would frequent this bar on a weekly basis. As these four photographs indicate, it offers much more than an array of bottles: a turkey, a primitive goddess, an old accordion, ancient glass bottles and bowls, low-fire pottery figures from Oaxaca.  I want to know more about these objects.  Are they contemporary or ancient? What is their iconography?  Are they the work of one of the owners, the Mexican painter, Guillermo Olguín?

Once I set up one of our Friday "play dates" with my wife, Andrea, to the Lower East Side, I hope to report more on the Casa Mezcal. Meanwhile, have a look at its web page, which informs us about its musical, cinematographical, theatrical and dance events. It also provides us with a brief history of the (possibly mythical) birth of mezcal.

Freddi Price & Tanisha Grant, Outside of Preserve24, Allen Street, Thursday,  May 16, 2013
Hardly a couple, but each stunning and alluring in their own ways, Freddi (whom you already have met) and Tanisha, the Maitre d'Hôtel of Preserve24, pose for me before a group of us partake of the restaurant's opening night.

Ice Block, Preserve24, Allen Street Entrance, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Hanging over the Allen Street entrance of Preserve24 is this fake, yet convincing, block of ice. Planned for its lower floor will be a two-ton block of blue ice from the Greenland Basal Ice Sheet, which will be installed next March. The cradle to house it has already been installed. Its designer calls the restaurant a "massive sculptural installation....[that] should feel as if it's been around for 200 years."

Cooks in the Kitchen, Preserve24, 177 East Houston Street, Lower East Side, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Opening night went pretty well. Six of us sat at a long table near the kitchen, where we watched the interaction of chefs and waiters.  here is the official web page of Preserve24, and to supplement is, here is an illustrated review which opens up with this statement:  "Dining at Preserve24 will feel a bit like stepping inside of a Tim Burton movie."

Welcome to the ever-changing Lower East Side.

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