Sharing Is Caring
Kicking off 2022 with a buffet of food-art tidbits it would be criminal not to share
Welcome to the latest issue of Weekly Special, a food-art newsletter by Andrea Gyorody.
Hello, friends old and new! Here we are, at the beginning of 2022, yet another year already marred by restriction, isolation, paranoia, and loss. By some miracle, I’ve managed to avoid Covid, though I get tested weekly for work and without fail, my heart skips a beat when I open the email with my test results.
Email feels like especially fraught terrain right now, my inbox a cascade of messages from my child’s school (a positive exposure, mandatory testing, new guidelines for travel); restaurants and museums and galleries announcing temporary closures or changing policies; and administrators at my university workplace, where we’ve just had to postpone a major exhibition opening celebration we’ve all hustled over the last few months to organize.
The only thing routinely breaking up all that Covid noise in my inbox is a steady stream of newsletters about art, food, music, politics, culture, freelancing, writing, and parenting. (And exactly one about skincare products, which might be the most useful of all). Those newsletters inspired me to start Weekly Special last spring, and they’re inspiring me — now that the two jobs I was juggling inelegantly have been reduced to one — to get back to semi-regular publication of Weekly Special!
While I haven’t sent anything out since October, I have been squirreling away every little bit of food-art news like, well, a squirrel hiding acorns for winter. I’m holding on to a few of those acorns for future deep dives, but others simply must be shared so that you don’t spend any more of your life deprived of 3D-printed kimchi bouillon cubes, which could bring you pleasure right now.
Savor these tidbits, and I’ll see you again very soon with a tribute to America’s most beloved painter of food, Wayne Thiebaud, who died in December at the age of 101. May we all live so long.
Food-Art Tidbits To Kick Off 2022!
A Spoon Loses Its Cherry (Temporarily)
Something paradoxically magical happens when art gets damaged or broken or otherwise needs physical attention. Bill Brown puts it this way in his seminal essay “Thing Theory”: “We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the window gets filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily.” When art breaks or degrades, it undergoes a similar transformation, albeit with much higher stakes than when the washing machine goes on the fritz.
Unlike art kept safely indoors, public sculpture often needs regular maintenance, offering routine opportunities for the work to morph, temporarily, from art object to “mere” object and back again. That’s exactly what happened last year when the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden arranged for contractors to dismantle Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry, shipping the cherry off to get a fresh coat of paint.
Just when you thought that van Bruggen and Oldenburg’s blown-up foodstuffs couldn’t get more charming, you see a photo — featured in this news piece by my friend Alicia Eler — of a dude riding in the cherry, grinning ear to ear, giving the work a whole different sense of scale and weight and thingness.
Meanwhile, the spoon stayed in place, patiently awaiting its newly lacquered cherry:
A Smattering of Exhibitions I Wish I’d Seen IRL
Covid has only exacerbated the constant angst of the art historian/curator: wanting to see every exciting exhibition around the globe, and having precious little time (or money) to do so. FOMO and regret are an inescapable part of the job, which social media somehow manages to make both better and worse.
Here’s a handful of recent shows I stalked ruthlessly on Instagram, making up for the fact that I couldn’t see them in person.
Stephanie Temma Hier
True confessions: this show of new work by Stephanie Temma Hier, at Mier Gallery in LA, only crossed my radar the night that it closed. I almost hopped in the car to go peer in the windows, but settled for high-res install shots instead. I’ll be eagerly awaiting her next solo show; this is weird, sexy, mixed media work that very clearly must be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated.
My Oberlin pal Matt Rarey sent me a review of FooGayZee, a wacky exhibition of work by John Avelluto. I couldn’t look away. Staged at Stand4 Gallery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the show irreverently explores Italian-American identity through rainbow cookies (made incredibly from layers of acrylic paint), marzipan (the real deal, used to sculpt edible objects), and cheeky references to Piero Manzoni and Blinky Palermo that might require an advanced degree in art history to tease out. I’ve already made several trips to my closest Eataly as penance for missing this one.
I’m perhaps most sad about having missed Tasting Menu, the inaugural exhibition at the brand new Barns Art Center in Hopewell Junction, New York, a stone’s throw from Dia Beacon. The Barns is a “contemporary art initiative that highlights art and artists in dialogue with food, farming, ecology, and sustainability,” which is clearly right up my alley. Tasting Menu featured work by a broad range of artists, among them Daniel Giordano, who hand-sculpted 500 clementines, each with its own personality, and later led a public marzipan-sculpting workshop. (Is marzipan having a moment??) The show looked like a feast for all the senses, which I tried to absorb as best I could through the inadequate proxy of Instagram.
3D-Printed Sugar Cubes And Other Delights
Just a few weeks after I moved back to LA, I had the pleasure of visiting the futuristic kitchen at Sugar Lab 3D, a new-ish start-up dedicated to making edible 3D-printed objects. This is the ARTnews piece that came out of that visit, and they’ve since been profiled in the LA Times, too. They do collabs with chefs and artists, but they also sell direct-to-consumer, so get on that website and buy yourself some lavender sugar cubes! And kimchi bouillon! And fruity bingsu toppers! You deserve it.
A New (To Me) German Photographer!
I’ve studied 20th-century German art for the last 14 years and worked on two exhibitions heavy on German photography, and yet had never heard of Elsa Thiemann until this past fall. I first saw her work posted on Instagram (can you tell I live there?) by digital curator Stephen Ellcock, whose social media accounts are treasure troves of interesting images not seen elsewhere, and then tracked her down in the 2021 exhibition catalogue Women in Abstraction, also a trove of new information. Born in 1910, Thiemann was a student at the Bauhaus from 1929-31, moving from the foundational course (where she studied under Kandinsky, Klee, and Albers — no bigs) to the photography workshop. When she graduated, she made photos in the attitude of New Objectivity, with close attention paid to depicting everyday objects in an almost scientific manner, as well as photograms that became the basis for Bauhaus-designed wallpaper. Tragically, she stopped producing photographs around 1960, when her husband assumed a professorship in Hamburg. There’s more to learn about her, and lots more images to uncover, but for now, can we just appreciate the simplicity and fabulous weirdness of this chorus of sliced onions with their gaping, cartoonish little mouths and bug eyes? I LOVE THEM.
ICYMI: Three Great Reads from the NYT
Last fall, the paper of record published a handful of excellent pieces — all by badass women writers, I might add — at the intersection of food and aesthetics.
🍚 Priya Krishna on the feelings evoked by reused food containers (which made me nostalgic for Danish butter cookies, a constant in my late grandmother’s house)
😳 Ligaya Mishan on what it means to eat what we fear, with creepy gothic photos by Anthony Cotsifas ~~ thanks for the tip, Susan Power!
🎂 Alicia Kennedy on a new generation of zany, maximalist cake-bakers
Zina Saro-Wiwa’s Illicit Gin Institute
I can’t close out this issue without mentioning the most wonderful food-art experience I’ve had in LA since moving back: attending Zina Saro-Wiwa’s Illicit Gin Institute (twice!) at the MAK Center, a Rudolf Schindler–designed house in West Hollywood. Produced by the art-and-food non-profit Active Cultures, each of the three assemblies began in the center’s cozy backyard with an introduction by Saro-Wiwa, who described the practice of illicit gin-making common in Ogoniland, Nigeria, where she grew up, and where the land is under constant threat of depletion by greedy and reckless foreign actors, part of the country’s violent colonial legacy. Bells chimed and Saro-Wiwa guided us through a silent tasting of three different house-made gins, each distilled with a different African botanical. Our bellies warmed and senses heightened, we were ushered through the house to the sprawling front yard, where we eventually drank more gin (mercifully masked by juices and tonics) and ate fresh oysters and gin-spiked chocolates that Saro-Wiwa had crafted by hand. The institutes concluded with dancing at golden hour, an experience of joy and communion that felt especially precious after so much pandemic isolation. My feet needed reminding of how to move. The gin proved essential.
For Further Eating
The most transcendent thing I’ve eaten in recent memory is the millet muffin from the Hammer Museum’s brand new Lulu Restaurant, conceived by Alice Waters and helmed by David Tanis. Leave it to the two of them to make a simple muffin an orgasmic experience. (During the soft opening I was also given a very generous pat of European-style butter for slathering, which I did with gusto; the butter has since disappeared from the muffin service, but it’s still delicious.) The good news is that one of my other favorite food goddesses, HRH Ruth Reichl, published the recipe from a previous incarnation of the muffin at Chez Panisse, so you can make it at home! You’re welcome.
Thank you for reading!
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You’re the best. See you again soon!