“Bayou Fever and Related Works,” an exhibition of twenty-one vibrant collages by the late artist Romare Bearden, is on view at DC Moore Gallery through April 29. Made in 1979, the works were originally conceived of as blueprints for a ballet, the titular Bayou Fever—a performance Bearden hoped would be choreographed by Alvin Ailey but was never produced. The ballet’s storyline involves a confrontation between the “Conjur Woman” and the “Swamp Witch,” who twist in a dramatic struggle for the soul of a sick child deep in the bayou. The collages are exhibited alongside artworks from other years, an effect that accents Bearden’s motifs: powerful women, elders, musicians, rural landscapes, domestic interiors, and religion.
An installation at the Museum of Chinese in America documents a quickly shifting American culture.
There used to be a restaurant at Fifty-First and Lexington, a relic of white-glove Chinese fine dining, called Mr. K’s. Its interior was all baby pink and Art Deco with high-backed plush seats and gold flatware, gold chopsticks, and gold soup bowls with little clawed feet. They served sorbet in between courses and kept a tea candle lit beneath the entrées, which were mostly plated versions of classic take-out fare: hot and sour soup, sweet and sour pork, eggplant in garlic sauce. The Peking duck came out prerolled in flour pancakes painted with hoisin sauce and scallion ribbons. Near the front entrance, there were glass cases of chopsticks inscribed in red with the names of celebrities and politicians who frequented the restaurant.
Ruth Reichl panned it when it opened in 1998—her central critique was about the restaurant’s authenticity. She describes the food as “not-quite-Chinese” and lamented that “unfortunately, Mr. K’s is serving Chinese food from another American era, a time when people had not yet experienced the real thing.” Read More
Artists reclaim the cells of England’s Reading Prison.
Outside each cell at Reading Prison, there’s a small metal frame screwed into the wall. The cell number sits in the bottom section, and the top has a card that keeps track of graffiti before and after prisoners are moved: NONE, SOME, or LOADS. The most popular form of vandalism is a wry ROOM SERVICE often scrawled next to the cells’ emergency buttons for calling warders. In one cell, the dated corner of a tabloid newspaper clings to a piece of chewing gum: presumably the rest of the page involved nudity. Stickily, it fossilizes a moment—July 5, 2013—in the year the prison closed.
Elsewhere, on the red glossy paint of an internal doorpost, there’s a lengthy autobiography in ballpoint, including a guilty plea for seven armed robberies, a “shout out to all the mandem” in postcodes across England, the anticipation of a release date—16.04.2016—and a final motto: RIDE OR DIE. Rather more tersely, cell C.2.2. has CUNT! scratched into the wall. From 1895–97, under the different number C.3.3., this was where Oscar Wilde served his sentence for “gross public indecency”—homosexual acts. The number became his identity. Read More