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05.04.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW

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1. EXHIBITION Dustin Yellin at The Robert Miller Gallery
Awe inspiring. Gasp inducing beauty. Meticulous artistry. These and about a hundred other draw dropping phrases come to mind after stepping into the world that Dustin Yellin has created. Painting on multiple layers of resin, then stacking them together, Yellin creates complex, mostly biological forms, trapped inside these block structures. When looked at from the front, you can see a complete skeleton, or a skull, or a gun. When looked at from the side, you see each painted layer, intricately detailed and textured. Shockingly bright reds, golds and whites are the main color choice, but are also mixed with an equally dense rainbow of colors that dazzle the eye, coming together to mesmerize as intelligently placed gallery lights reflect and refract through these massive creations. The red tree, made up of thousands of painted swirls and curlicues evocative of ornamentation on the palaces of Thailand overwhelms from near and far, as a complete image or broken down into its constituent parts. And I swear to god there’s a full female skeleton with eyes that actually glow.

2. FOOD Casellula
Wine and Cheese bars are becoming a bit too ever-present in this city, but when you find one that is the perfect combination of incredible food, beautifully selected wines and simply the most fantastic flights of cheese experienced to date (thanks to the able hands of the very sweet on premise fromager Tia Keenan) how can you possibly complain. A plate of four cheeses was presented to me, eaten left to right from most mild to strongest and each paired with a genius taste to compliment the subtleties of the cheese. The delectable goat cheese (second from left) was paired with a sunflower seed brittle making the cheese truly sing. The final smelliest strongest Spanish bleu cheese was paired with a rich crumble of dark chocolate that brought out every minute flavor in the cheese. Match all that gloriousness with a large glass of Barco Negro Tempranillo from Portugal, baked coconut covered adobo chicken wings and wash everything down with a large slice of three layered chocolate cake covered in chocolate sprinkles and drenched in fresh cream. If your mouth isn’t salivating right now and your jacket on ready to go eat here, something is seriously wrong with you.

3. EXHIBIT Jenny Holzer: Protect Protect
The elevator doors at the Whitney opened up to a massive room with eleven large LEDs splayed evenly across the floor, yellow text flying by horizontally and vertically. You feel yourself propelled out, feeling compelled to read both bits of text as they go flying by (no east feat). Once you get over the sight, and loving the way the light plays off the darkened space, you finally move yourself through the exhibition, only to be greeted by similar experiences as LED panels curve themselves into corners, jut from side to side at conflicting angles, lined up along wall looking like some Donald Judd installation on acid, flashing in seizure inducing colorful patterns with LEDs running on the back as well painting colors onto the white walls of the museum. Counteracting these light installations are decidedly more drab recreations of actual redaction documents from the US government. There’s certainly something haunting about them, but matched with the light installations, you truly can’t be bothered to spend much time on these oversized black and white images.

4. SHOW West Side Story
West Side is one of those shows that no matter which production you’re watching, you just smile to be sitting in front of this incredible Romeo & Juliet story unfolding with some of the most iconic and sumptuous music composed for the stage. This new revival is no different. But you get an extra kick thanks to original book writer, Arthur Laurent’s, direction, bringing extra authenticity to the Puerto Rican side of things. “I Feel Pretty” and “A Boy Like That” are now sung in Spanish, and much of the Shark’s dialogue has also been translated. This simple and logical twist ups the ante of the piece, bringing about new gravitas to a show already filled with it. However, it is the daring staging of the usually comic number “Gee, Officer Krupke,” that caught my attention, brought out by a stunning performance from Curtis Holbrook as Action. The gestures are lewd, the commentary harsh and it finally gives the Jets a little patina of reality from the mostly gee-gosh ‘50s mentality that permeates their roles. I truly wish that the show had been even more daring in pushing that raw energy captured during that 11th hour number.

5. ALBUM Working on a Dream Bruce Springsteen
I’m not the hugest Springsteen fan though I will drop everything to see him perform live (a true entertainer in the classic sense of the word) and the Seeger Sessions is up there with my favorite albums of the past couple years, but every time he pulls out a new album, I’m somehow not interested. Well, I finally gave this new one a listen, and, as I’m sure could have been expected, it’s pretty damn great. Starting strong with “Outlaw Pete,” a propulsive story song with an old west feel, Bruce mines classic pop-rock harking back to the beginnings of the E-Street band. “Queen of the Supermarket” is a must, with heavy orchestrations and the use of checking-out sounds as a beat pattern, it’s a ridiculous and addictive confection, shocking mostly for its very serious take on Americana subject matter. And of course, there’s Springsteen’s excellent track for the feature film The Wrestler, a heartbreaking ode that completely captured that film and very nicely closes out this workingman’s album of good rocking songs that don’t offend.

6. FOOD A.O.C.
A little bit of Paris nestled into the West Village is quite a wonderful way to spend a quiet mid-week evening when all you want is some good food that you’re not cooking yourself. All the classics are on the menu, and on a rainy spring day you can’t go wrong with the classic onion soup. For the garlic and butter lovers, you can always start with the escargot. But it’s the main courses here that really make the mouth water. I would strongly recommend the duck confit made with garlic sausage, French southwest bean stew and tomatoes topped with breadcrumbs. It’s not a surprising dish, but it’s strong in flavor and that smoky goodness that makes duck meat truly delicious. If you’re in more of a fishy mood, the grilled tuna with black mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in a balsamic reduction doesn’t disappoint. But my absolute favorite is veal cordon bleu stuffed with ham and cheese paired with string beans and spinach in a mustard sauce. The tenderness of the meat is what always draws me to the dish, but topping it with ham and cheese just makes it ridiculously flavorful.

7. EXHIBITION Picasso: Mosqueteros at The Gagosian Gallery
You probably think you’ve seen just about everything Picasso has to offer, but this exhibition will prove you wrong with its focus on the rarely seen late works from 1962 to 1972. These pieces are amazingly brighter in color palette, often times having almost a watercolor effect in the fluidity and modulation of tone. Even within a single canvas the composition is largely varied in hue with subject matter that is distinctly related to the portraiture of Velazquez and reminiscent of Picasso’s earlier interpretation of the master’s work in the 1957’s series, Las Meninas. Intermingled amongst more familiar eschewed faces and hyper-sexualized works, there are some shocking departures. There’s a bust that practically looks like a mud-caked skull, an embraced couple that is so disfigured that only the hands, feet and sex organs are clearly delineated below a watery blue wave white capped through an impasto technique more commonly associated with impressionism and contemporary artists like de Kooning and Auerbach. Any opportunity to revisit an overly documented artist and have all preconceived notions thrown into stark relief is an opportunity well worth taking.

8. EXHIBITION Better History
Despite eating brunch across the way from this gallery most every weekend, I never knew it was even there. Occupying a large industrial warehouse, the words “Better History” painted onto the front of the garage door, an odd assortment of art graces the walls, ceiling and any other available space. The diver series by Alex Massouras is captivating, comprised of voids of black and white with the most simple and perfect watercolor depiction of a diver poised and frozen above a simple square. Intricately cut piles of single dollar bills by tattoo artist Scott Campbell are amazing demonstrations of skill and artistry. There’s a humorous wooden piano suspended over a large x on the ground in true Looney Tunes fashion. Above the makeshift gallery desk, a laser installation pulses amidst the chain link fencing. In all this varied art, you can even find a little Ed Ruscha. There really is nothing better that discovering something unexpected and unknown in New York City, especially when you unsuspectingly walk past it every single day.

9. EVENT Working in an office…
For many of my readers, I’m sure this seems like a ridiculous thing to include on a top ten, but for the first time since a summer internship after my Sophomore year of college, I have been working in an office environment. It’s amazing! People talk to you, like real actual conversation! When I don’t fully understand my task, there’s someone not too far away that might have a potential solution. I can bounce ideas off people, let them know what exciting things are going on in my life, and if I make a baked good the night before, I can bring in the leftovers rather than leaving them on my table and slowly sneaking nibbles and bites throughout the day in my apartment until I finally look up and realize that I’ve eaten the entire darn thing. Working in an office: a social breakthrough, a crash course in dieting and the realization that there are others in the world doing what I’m doing! (For those reading that work in an office, feel free to let me know that this good will and excitement gets monotonous).

THE TEN SPOT: Doug Aitken’s Electric Earth at the Whitney
Submitted for your pleasure from guest writer Jevin Dornic
Go Ahead and Kick Yourself. Incase you’ve been living in a hole for the past three years, let me bring you up to speed with some intelligent and captivating visual architecture. Doug Aitken first dazzled the whole of Manhattan under starry skies (or the urban equivalent) in 2007 with the projected video installation entitled Sleepwalkers. The month long exhibition flooded a combination of translucent and opaque facades at the MoMA with five brilliantly constructed and cohesive narratives. Never one to disappoint, Electric Earth, as installed at the Whitney, envelopes the viewer in the energy and compulsions of a protagonist and the environments that surround him. Dominating an interior gallery, the installation brings Aitken’s work to a personal and nearly uncomfortable level. So, while you were pretending to have the Swine Flu, you should’ve been at the Whitney, instead of getting sunburned on the Great Lawn. (This exhibition closed Sunday, May 3rd)

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