Eat, Drink, and Be Fascinated
Who isn’t interested in food and dining? Eating and the experience of sharing a meal with others are a big part of our daily lives. The subject, inspiring to both artists and historians, is the focus of three very different exhibitions highlighted this month.
The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum
Celebrating its 10th anniversary on display in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” is generally considered the first major feminist work of art. Produced between 1974 and 1979, the installation represents the history of women in Western civilization via a massive ceremonial banquet presented on a triangular table measuring 48 feet on each side. Included are elaborate place settings for 39 mythological and historical “guests” including Sacajawea, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Sojourner Truth, and Virginia Woolf. Another 999 names are inscribed in the Heritage Floor on which the table rests. Each place setting, rendered in a style appropriate to its guest, includes a gold ceramic chalice and utensils, an embroidered napkin, and a painted plate with a central motif of butterfly and vulvar forms.
The table’s three wings trace a chronological line from Prehistory (Primordial Goddess) to Classical Rome (Hypatia), Christianity (Marcella) to the Reformation (Anna van Schurman), and the American Revolution (Anne Hutchinson) to the Feminist Revolution (Georgia O’Kee e). A beautifully executed and awe-inspiring history lesson. (Ongoing, 200 Eastern Parkway)
Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant at the Museum of Food and Drink
This unique exhibit was originally set to close in late 2017, but – with the subject of immigration an ongoing hot topic – it has been extended through the Chinese Lunar New Year in February. In the 19th century, Chinese immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as cheap labor during the Gold Rush were subject to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, given the choice to stay in the country and likely never see their families again or to leave and never come back. Later barred from working in gold mines and other industries, they began opening restaurants and serving the food that would become one of the nation’s most beloved cuisines. The MOFAD show focuses on this origin story and celebrates the history and variety of Chinese restaurants. Check out the 1,500-pound fortune cookie machine, which dispenses good- will messages submitted by strangers around the world; a wall of more than 7,000 takeout containers; and a collection of historical Chinese menus from across the country. There are also chef-designed tastings, because you will get hungry. (Through 2/16/18, 62 Bayard St., Brooklyn)
Food Fight at the Society of Illustrators
Now in its 28th year, the Members Open (formerly known as Our Own Show) at the Society of Illustrators is an annual competition featuring the work of the organization’s members. This year SI artists were asked to illustrate their favorite depiction of food in the medium and size of their choice. The resulting exhibition, “Food Fight,” continues the long tradition of food-related art, from Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s whimsical surrealist paintings of the 16th century to Wayne Thiebaud’s cool 1960s depictions of pies and cakes. A jury will choose the best among these entries to receive the Stevan Dohanos Award. (A past president of the Society and 1971 inductee to its Hall of Fame, Dohanos was a federal office muralist and American realist painter who created over 40 U.S. postal stamps.) With its varied and tantalizing portrayals of edibles, the show is a tasty treat for visitors of all ages.
(Through 12/30, 128 E. 63rd St.)