When Meals Played the Muse
By RANDY KENNEDY
Published: February 21, 2007
THE artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who died in 1978 at age 35, loved to cook, but he could never quite unbraid his culinary passions from those of artmaking, with sometimes bizarre dinner party results. At one, recalled his widow, Jane Crawford, he cooked a lovely whole sea bass, but it emerged from the kitchen encased in a block of aspic nearly three feet long. He unmolded it, then gave the table a good kick, so that the aspic wobbled wildly and the bass seemed to fishtail upstream.
"All the guests looked at it with this sort of horror and amazement," Ms. Crawford said recently. "In the end my mundane chicken stew got eaten and everyone was too afraid to touch the fish."
A retrospective of Matta-Clark’' brief, highly influential career opening tomorrow at the Whitney Museum of American Art will shine a new spotlight on the close but sometimes unsung affinities between the worlds of art and food, and also on one celebrated example of their coming together, the pioneering SoHo restaurant Food, which Matta-Clark helped found in 1971 at the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets.
The restaurant lasted not quite three years in its original incarnation, as the artists who cooked in it and who ran it, more as a utopian enterprise than a business, burned out or moved on. But many of the vaguely countercultural ideas fostered there — fresh and seasonal foods, a geographically catholic menu, a kitchen fully open to the dining room, cooking as a kind of performance — have now become so ingrained in restaurants in New York and other large cities that it is hard to remember a time when such a place would have seemed almost extraterrestrial.
The restaurant, for example, served sushi and sashimi at a time when they were still not widely seen in New York. (It was the idea of Hisachika Takahashi, assistant to the artist Robert Rauschenberg; one early menu simply described it as raw mackerel with wasabi sauce.) The same menu featured ceviche, borscht, rabbit stew with prunes, stuffed tongue Creole and a fig, garlic and anchovy salad. Big communal dishes of chopped parsley and fresh butter were kept on the counters. Bakers came down from the Mad Brook Farm commune in Vermont to make the bread. Two nights a week the cooks — modern dancers by trade — were vegetarians and so was the menu, a kind of flexibility that was Food's trademark. At least once the owners opened one of the restaurant’s large windows onto the street and sold stalks of sugar cane to passers-by.
Artists were also invited weekly to serve as guest chefs, and the whole dinner was considered a performance art piece. One of the most fabled, costing $4, was Matta-Clark's "bone dinner," which featured oxtail soup, roasted marrow bones and frogs' legs, among other bony entrees. After the plates were cleared, the bones were scrubbed and strung together so that diners could wear their leftovers home.
"It looked like an anthropological site," said the artist Keith Sonnier, another guest chef and a member of the extended Food crowd, one that also included members of Philip Glass's ensemble, dancers from Trisha Brown's company and other artists like Robert Kushner and Donald Judd, who lived in SoHo before it was called SoHo.
"You have to realize at that particular time in New York," Mr. Sonnier added, "people did not eat bone marrow." [read full article]
NYTimes Art Review
Cross Sections of Yesterday
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN
Published: February 23, 2007
The Whitney Museum of American Art presents Seminars with Artists:
New York Corners
Taking its cue from the exhibition Gordon Matta-Clark: "You Are the Measure," this season's speakers explore art practices born from critical intersections with New York City.