Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
It's difficult to imagine a time when color photography was considered inappropriate for museums, but in fact that was the case not too long ago. Then William Eggleston's 1976 exhibition at MoMA--and his accompanying book, William Eggleston's Guide--changed the course of art photography in the United States. His photos are remarkable both for their intense color and for the way they capture scenes that are banal yet arresting--an ordinary boy reading a gun magazine, a blood-red room with a single spare lightbulb, two women in an ambiguously sexual posture on a seedy couch. The Whitney's absorbing exhibition spans Eggleston's long career, from his mildly interesting early black-and-white work through his breakthrough years in the 70s to his recent photos, which present a world that's glossier than it once was, but still unerringly enigmatic.
Photo: thanks and thanks
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Frank Bruni describes Le Bernardin a "miracle" and "nearly perfect." New York Magazine has named it the city's best restaurant. Alain Ducasse calls it the best seafood restaurant in the country. GQ, not to be outdone, compared Le Bernardin to the Statue of Liberty and hailed it as the best restaurant period in the United States. Could any restaurant survive such an avalanche of praise? There for a special occasion recently, we found out.
The long, cool space manages to hint at the nautical without throwing itself overboard into Long John Silver's territory, and the menus are so cheaply produced that it almost seems the restaurant is being deliberately indifferent to its grande dame status. But then the impeccable service starts and the amuse bouche arrives--a velvety salmon tartare that has us requesting more bread before the waiter has even left the table.
We followed that with delicious slices of pounded tuna drizzled with a fig compote and crab cakes wrapped in zucchini blossoms and truffle butter.
In a final gasp of summer that was especially welcome on a cold and blustery day, our main courses were lobster with asparagus and gribiche and red snapper in a tomato broth. Le Bernardin divides its menu into categories of cooking style--almost raw, barely touched, and lightly cooked--and the main courses tend to fall in the latter, which is a perfect description for the tenderness with which the fish is handled.
After such piscatorial delights, we were too full to try more than one dessert, a good-but-blown-out-of-the-metaphorical-and-literal-water chocolate-peanut tart. The petits fours were great, however, and followed by a parting gift that will come in handier: a 2008 Zagat's guide, with Le Bernardin's entry embossed on the front. The first comment? "Accolades are well deserved." We can't go so far as GQ, or even as far as New York Magazine, but this is a meal we'll remember for very long time.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Call us old-fashioned (we did leave a restaurant before 7 on a Saturday night, after all), but there’s just something really cool about taking a violin, plugging it in, and playing it like the world’s tiniest guitar. Subversive, even. And there’s something even cooler about using music, text, and computer-generated images to imagine a meeting between two influential figures, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) has done both, among other things, as part of the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). His “Darwin’s Meditation for the People of Lincoln” blends languages, words, video, and sounds to comment on Lincoln, Darwin, Haiti, the United States past and present, Obama, musical composition, poetry, etc., etc. It was academic lecture as rock concert, opera as music video, private musings as public spectacle, superabundance as commentary, a really intense 90 minutes.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Kefi, a Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side, only takes cash, does not accept reservations, serves wines that non-Adriatic folks have never heard of (Agiorghitiko, Malamatina Retsina, etc.), and can seat fewer people than our apartment. So why, when we left there at 7 on a recent Saturday, was there a line at least 20 people long waiting for tables? Well, have a look at the sheep's milk dumplings with pine nuts and lamb sausage, the shrimp with orzo and spinach, and the birino souvlaki. While we're happy to hear of their upcoming move to a larger space--and that they'll be taking credit cards and reservations in their new home--we'll miss the schadenfreude that comes from walking past the waiting crowds enviously eying the flecks of feta on our clothes.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Continuing our trend of only sitting in seats that give us tremendous views of actors' bald spots, we attended an amazing performance of The Seagull. Boy, Kristin Scott Thomas's scalp sure can act. (Trust us: our seats were above the lights.) This restaging of Chekhov's 1895 play about unrequited love, boredom, silence, fractured families, vanity, fame, and the problematic fourth wall recently moved to Broadway after a super-successful run in London's West End. We were surprised by its humor, which only gets bleaker as the acts continue: "I'm in mourning for my life," deadpans a young woman draped in black. A few scenes later, the writer Trigorin (played by Peter Sarsgaard) claims the seagull isn't a symbol. He's deliberately oversimplifying, of course, but it's not until the final act that we realized our smiles had turned into grimaces. At the end, we clapped until our hands hurt.
Critic John Leonard died this week, aged 69. His obituary in the Times concludes with a speech we heard him give a few years ago, when he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle: " 'My whole life I have been waving the names of writers, as if we needed rescue,' Mr. Leonard said. 'From these writers, for almost 50 years, I have received narrative, witness, companionship, sanctuary, shock and steely strangeness; good advice, bad news, deep chords, hurtful discrepancy and amazing grace. At an average of five books a week, not counting all those sighed at and nibbled on before they go to the Strand, I will read 13,000. Then I’m dead. Thirteen thousand in a lifetime.' " He was a leftist, great reader, honest critic, and devoted New Yorker, and his columns made us look forward to Harper's each month. He'll be missed.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
A few weeks ago, the Times endorsed Obama for president. The paper of record covered the election from a different angle this weekend via an essay in the Book Review about the two candidates' literary sensibilities: not surprisingly, McCain prefers history and Hemingway, while Obama favors "American standards," as well as Graham Greene and Doris Lessing. We can only hope that he also had So You Want Be President on his bedside table at some point over the very long two-year campaign. We'll conclude with our own endorsement: Go Donkeys!
Monday, November 03, 2008
Our trip up the Hudson also took us to Kykuit, the 3500-acre Rockefeller family estate. Boasting commanding views of the river and an interesting collection of modern art, Kykuit is a fascinating glimpse into how the other other half lives.
Elizabeth Peyton paints lovely portraits of her friends and other young, beautiful people (hence the exhibition's title: Live Forever). The paintings look like watercolors but aren't: they're composed with oils -- dripping, wet oils that give the subjects a juvenile (everyone looks so young) yet shimmering (everyone looks so alive, even as they lounge and repose and sulk) presence. The personal nature of her project -- to document her contemporaries -- reminded us of Nan Goldin's work, although obviously Peyton paints peaceful scenes and Goldin photographs violent, brutal ones. Still, both artists invoke the importance of narrative in all figurative work: we have to supply a story in order to transcend the passivity of looking.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Across the Pocantico River from the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, we found Philipsburg Manor, a restored 17th-century mill complex that was home to one of the most important slave-trading operations in New York State, a purpose belied by its placid surroundings.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
In honor of the season, we made a pilgrimage to Sleepy Hollow, where we saw Washington Irving's grave, the 17th-century Dutch church that features so prominently in his story, as well as the final resting places of some of his characters.