On ViewMuseum Of The City Of New York
Food in New York: Bigger Than the Plate
September 16 – September 30, 2022
New York, NY
On ViewThe Invisible Dog Arts Center
September 10 – October 15, 2022
New York, NY
As I write, there is at the Museum of the City of New York, a gigantic and vividly colorful exhibition entitled Food in New York: Bigger Than the Plate, which opened on September 16 to great acclaim in the newspaper and radio. It displays a startling abundance of texts and images relating to the produce, production and transport of food and beverages with the relevant vehicles, among which the bicycles seem the most picturesque, especially the one pulling a cart of bottles with different colored liquids. Commerce and consumption occupy a major portion of the space, from public markets and scavengers to street vendors, pictured by Victor Semon Perard’s etching, [Hot Corn Man at Fulton Ferry](1910). There are a couple of remarkable place settings, all this in a vigorously interactive setting, where we can displace and shift the angles of the tableware, lift the malleable rubber spoon, sniff the odors of four kinds of colored food containers with a key to the scents: pink for sweet as, in bubblegum; yellow for salty, as in pizza; white for sour, as in fresh hemp; and black for bitter, as in coffee.
An impressive stand is occupied by a bee construction, about which Jan Num writes that our native pollinators are dwindling because of the human impact on the environment, a reminder of our interconnectedness with other species and settings. The object here is a “Bee space to go”: a portable observation hive for honey bees, arranged to include the round and waggle dances used to communicate the location of nectar and housing. There is even room for the fake: look-alike striped shrimp, “faked meat, real vegetarian animals.” We could salivate over the Sapicu or Avicularis Atrovirens, described mouthwateringly as “a dessert meat to finish off a summer meal, slowly cooked with caramelized crust served together with a creamy vanilla ice cream or chocolate.” All of this is plentifully illustrated by artworks relating to the various settings, and by accompanying videos. Testifying to only some of the prodigious research behind this astonishing show is a changing display of books about the subject of everything comestible: Feeding Gotham, for example, and Gastronativism. Cookbooks galore: everything felt plentiful here on this side of Fifth Avenue.
At 51 Bergen Street in Brooklyn, at The Invisible Dog Arts Center, run by Lucien Zayan, “dedicated to the integration of innovation in the arts with profound respect for the past,” is a wonder-striking five-week exhibition about the energy given off by thirty-six artists contributing various kinds of works relating to food. It is called Nafas, meaning breath in Arabic, and you could feel yourself breathing better as you strode through the displays, savoring each bite. I vastly loved the immense fruit displays, with the listening wires protruding from a plum or an apple. It all makes sense, gustatory sense, for in the SAM (private Salle à Manger) Lucien Chef Ambition “concocts in front of you sophisticated and creative meals elaborated with attention.”
Such splendid stalls of FRESH SEAFOOD, with shrimp and mussels and lobster, and many tricky delights. And so interactive! Try the place setting for a single person, before a mirror, in which you see yourself pictured. It is quite as if you were dining with yourself, as you regard yourself in the mirror, enjoying an empty plate and cup, imagining what MIGHT have been there before you gulped and savored. From the farm, sculptures of carrots and garlic and fresh everything: upside down faces and animals and figurines, marionettes, and grand witty if melancholic installations—like the open mouth consuming a series of figures, lined up like so many small animals perfectly sculpted, only to be expelled on the other side and turned into the dread meat output of the abattoirs. I so lingered in front of a tapestry of brilliant-colored weavings, to appreciate the holes made by worms in the deliciously elaborate carpet of threads, that some other eager visitors were no doubt impatient to take my place. What a feast of colors and thoughts!