Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dada at MoMA

The Dada show opens today at MoMA (on Dad's Day, no less), but H. and I got a preview last night at the members' reception. The invitation said "cocktail attire," so we did it up stylishly: her in a stunning dark red cocktail dress, me in my linen suit with a new pink shirt and textured pink-striped tie. A good amount of people had chosen to dress up, but there was of course a sampling of those who either a) didn't put in much effort at all and looked casual or b) wore a hipster outfit that probably required a fair amount of effort but still looked casual. Either way, Dada was an art movement (late teens, early '20s) about breaking the rules, so they weren't going to very well turn people away at the door. Apparently, this is also the case at many of the city's top restaurants. "Jacket and tie required" has turned into a more fungible thing. Still, I've enjoyed getting dressed up for years now, so if given the opportunity, I run with it. I think I'll have to come back and see the exhibit again, but it's installed with a decent amount of whimsy appropriate to the mood and tone of the work. Not quite as frenetic as the Paris show, according to the Times, but still noticeable, compared with, say, the Munch exhibit that occupied the space previously. One of the revelations I got last night amid the party atmosphere was that a lot of the work is in fact very beautiful to admire. Even if the forms were avant-garde, the artists did not scrap the aesthetics entirely. Even the readymades, which are usually what come to mind when I think of Dada, have a way of presaging the 20th century's interest in design and mass-market products. I look at Duchamp's Fountain and think: They don't really make urinals that small any more, and aren't its curves kind of appealing?

By the time we got back downstairs to the main floor, most of the wine bottles were empty, but we located a few holdouts, took a few last sips, and then headed off to Candle 79, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant off Lexington. We had a booth on the second floor. The decor was earthen-toned and cozy, but sleek and not shabby. It's the kind of restaurant where they take the crafting of fine food from tofu, seitan and tempeh very seriously, so we got a little spiel as we ordered. Eating at vegetarian places, I sometimes feel like I'm hemmed in on one side since I'm allergic to many nuts. So I was navigating toward a tempeh dish with quinoa, when the waiter asked whether I'd had tempeh before. Apparently, because of the way it's processed, it's the kind of food that requires something of an acclimation period. This was news to me, but in the end, I was very pleased with the waiter's direction, which was toward another seitan dish. We each had one, and loved every bite. I love when you know you're in good hands culinarily speaking, and can dig in and trust that you'll be welcomed with a wonderful palate of flavors. Growing up, I'd often steer toward more conservative, more bland foods, because they're what I knew and they filled me up. But ever since I started coming to the city three years ago, I've taken more risks and—except for those moments when I found that I was allergic to raw mango and lychee—I've been happily surprised. For dessert, we crossed the park, staying about the same latitude, and headed for Cafe Lalo. It was crowded as all get out, so we selected a pair of cake slices—Bailey's Irish Cream and Black Forest—from the display case and headed out with our plastic forks to the benches around the Natural History Museum (same street, second night). A sweet ending to the evening.


Jaime said...

dada, candle 79, and lalo in one night. cannot express my jealousy. but glad you enjoyed candle 79. fantastic place.

Sarah said...

I was just at Candle 79 last week (very easy for me to get to on the crosstown bus). I liked that place.

And of course, Lalo, my old standby!