Archive for March, 2005

The Getty Museum in L.A.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Zigzag Path between Buildings

Zigzag Path between Buildings

The Getty Museum in L.A. is an extraordinary place to visit. Although the art collection amassed by the oil baron J. Paul Getty is fabulous, it may be surpassed by the magnificent setting, which encompasses brilliant architecture and superb landscaping design. Richard Meier designed the Getty Center and wedded his signature modern style to more classic materials to express Getty’s roots in the past and belief in the future. To contribute counterpoint of color and texture to the complex of buildings, artist Robert Irwin designed the beautiful Central Garden. The Getty Center is a 750 acre site perched atop the Santa Monica Hills with breathtaking views of the city – what a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Visitors reach the museum complex by boarding a tram, which ascends the hill in a leisurely five minutes. Upon exiting the tram, you see a series of buildings made up predominately of travertine marble. One hundred ocean freighter voyages from Italy were needed to transport all the marble. Smooth travertine was used for all the flooring inside and out, while a special splitting process was used to produce a rough marble surface for most of the building walls. Meier uses a mixture of right angles and curves to produce subtle, playful, and dramatic complements. His use of glass is equally dramatic; the light and shadows produce an ever changing art form.

Central Garden

Central Garden

Another part of the complex that is alive is the Central Garden. A zigzag path heads down a hill towards the main section of the garden, and it includes several small bridges that cross a man-made stream. It is interesting that not only does your visual perception of the complex change as you descend the path, but the sounds are uniquely different as you cross each bridge. As you reach the main garden you are greeted with a maze of 400 bright red azaleas, forming bold circles in a quiet reflecting pond. On the south side of the reflecting pond is a a panoramic view of Los Angeles, while looking north over the azaleas, the serene reflecting pond is being filled with water from a waterfall with the towering Getty buildings forming a majestic backdrop. This tranquil oasis certainly captures every one of your senses, and is certainly a dramatic contrast to the distant Los Angeles.

Although you could easily spend the afternoon outdoors, the Getty Center has an art collection worth visiting. The art is exhibited in four separate buildings, each dedicated to separate art periods. In each building, sculpture, manuscripts,

Azaleas and the Waterfall

Azaleas and the Waterfall

decorative arts such as furniture, and photography are located on the first floor, while the second floors are dedicated to paintings. It is interesting that the painting galleries are illuminated by skylights with computer-controlled louvers. This allows the visitors to view the paintings in natural light as the artists did. The painting exhibits are predominately from the years 1400 to 1850, and include such masters as Correggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Cezanne. My favorite paintings were Wheatstacks and Rouen Cathedral, both by Claude Monet. Although both paintings were very different subjects, they were the same style. Each was painted with a dot technique, so as you viewed the painting from five feet away the painting appeared cloudy, lacking definition and focus. What is spectacular is that as you view these same paintings from fifteen feet away, the subject of the painting becomes well defined, and the areas of the painting that appeared cloudy now become a beautiful array of light and shadows…brilliant.

I loved the Getty Center; the architecture, gardens, art, and view all moved me. The next time you are in L.A., make sure to allocate a few hours to visit this complex, I’m sure you will find it very rewarding.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Monday, March 21st, 2005
Matisse's Dance

Matisse’s Dance

MOMA in N.Y.C. reopened this past November after a 2 year renovation. Japanese architect Yashio Taniguchi was selected for this design. The new space is nearly twice as large as the prior, allowing the museum to expand its collection, in addition to hosting more special exhibitions. This new design is crisp and clean, with white walls, large open atriums, and a huge glass wall that opens onto the Sculpture Garden. Although there may be many aspects of this architecture that are worthy of attention, I found that the design blended into the background, providing a clean white canvas which showcases the artwork.

This new museum contains over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and design objects. The focus is on art from the very late 19th century to the present, and the result is one of the most comprehensive modern art collections in the world. The earliest artwork is from Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh, which is like a segue from the Impressionist era to the more modern era. There are over 3,200 paintings and sculptures by such artists as: Picasso, Matisse, Pollack, Warhol, Miro, Dali, Johns, and Rauschenberg.

The building has six floors, with the fourth and fifth dedicated to paintings and sculpture. The fifth floor contains the earliest works, from 1880 to 1940. Here there is considerable attention given to Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. From this point, Modern art took several different directions and the museum tries to capture this by showcasing artists from different movements. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miro and Salvator Dali are all represented.

The fourth floor galleries present artwork created between the early 1940s and the late 1960s. Here is the most modern interpretation of art. Artists such as Jackson Pollack, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg are well showcased. Andy Warhol is another featured artist with a wall dedicated to his paintings of Campbell Soup cans. Actually there are 32 separate canvases representing the 32 varieties of soup available in 1962.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article in the N.Y. Times about an investor that bought several paintings. The two most expensive paintings were a Monet for $20 million and a Pollack for $ 58 million. Jackson Pollack was the first artist to utilize a new painting technique, he poured paint onto the canvas rather than using the more conventional paint brush. Obviously many in the art world admire Pollack for his “drip” technique, and characterize his work as “action painting”. I personally would have used the $58 million in other ways. For the Pollack fans, his One: Number 31, 1950 painting is showcased here at MOMA.

I must admit that I do not fully appreciate or understand all the art exhibited at MOMA, but am certainly impressed by the breadth of this modern art collection. Every time I return to MOMA I learn something new. Whether MOMA shocks you, educates you, or exhilarates you, you must go because it will certainly stimulate your senses.

Eating at MOMA

Although there are a couple cafes within the museum, I would recommend a more proper meal at The Modern, the restaurant on the first floor. The Modern was opened by famed restauranteur Danny Meyer. The chef is Gabriel Kreuther, who earned three stars for his French cuisine at Atelier. His background is Austrian, and you can see an Austrian/Alsatian influence in his menu. The appetizers were creative and diverse, ranging from homemade liverwurst to tagliatelle with chanterelle mushrooms and black truffles. The entrees were equally as good, the salmon with a horseradish crust being a personal favorite. The food was certainly above average, and surprisingly the price tag was very fair considering the midtown location.

The space is divided into two restaurants, decorated in a sleek minimalistic style, which seems appropriate being housed within MOMA. The front restaurant is is the Bar Room, which is filled with dozens of small tables, and is packed from noon till well after three. The back room is more formal, with larger tables and white tablecloths.This room has a huge plate glass window looking out over the Sculpture Garden. Presently this room is only open for dinner.

I feel the space is too cold, and is extremely hectic during lunch. I will return though, because with time, the crowds will ease, and the food was innovative and very well prepared.

It’s BBQ Season

Sunday, March 20th, 2005

Spring is around the corner, and this past weekend I barbecued for the first time. The grill adds such flavor to a dish that I use it as often as possible. As with any dining experience, you need to mix it up so it does not become routine. I wanted to share two dishes that I cook that will hopefully stimulate you to try something different. The first is a chicken dish which is smoked to add a whole new flavor. The second is a pork dish in which the loin is stuffed.

Smoked Chicken

Chicken is a very common dish cooked on the grill, however I find that very few people smoke it, which is my favorite way. Adding wood chips of hickory or mesquite over your coals will add a great smokey flavor to your meat. First marinate your chicken (breasts, thighs, wings etc) for at least a few hours. You can use your favorite barbeque sauce, but I prefer olive oil, fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme or sage), salt and pepper. I then put coals on only one side of my grill. I sear the chicken directly over the hot coals (without the cover on) for about 10 minutes, at which time the chicken has nice grill marks. I then move the chicken to the other side of the grill, off the direct heat. An hour before grilling I soaked wood chips in a bowl of water. I now add these wood chips directly over my coals, and cover the grill. After 10 minutes I add some more wood chips, and turn over my chicken. Remove the chicken to a platter when cooked through, and let rest for 5 minutes. The skin will be a rich mahogany color, and the chicken will have a delicious smokey flavor.

Stuffed Pork Loin

Butterfly a pork loin so that it is flat, like a thin london broil. Note that your butcher can do this for you. For the stuffing, saute spinach (1 box of frozen spinach works well), 1/2 onion chopped, and 1 clove of garlic minced in olive oil over medium heat. When onion is translucent, add to a mixing bowl to cool. Mix in 25 toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 5 sage leaves chopped, salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture over pork loin, about 1/4 inch thick. Roll pork back to its original shape, and tie with string. Grill over high heat to brown the roast and seal in the juices, then complete the roasting process over low heat. Remove roast while still slightly pink in the center and let rest 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Worth Seeking Out..

Saturday, March 19th, 2005
  • I have always been a fan of Wusthof knives, the quality edge and superb balance seemed perfect. Recently however, I tried a new toy, a 4 1/2 inch Paring knife by Global. These Japanese knives are thin and razor sharp. The forged blades are welded onto hollow, dimpled steel handles to form one seamless piece. These knives are very light, and I find them great for dicing vegetables. Available at most fine kitchen supply stores.
  • Riedel “O” Wine Tumblers are a fun addition to your wine glass collection. These wine glasses do not have the stem which is typical for wine glasses, but they do have the bowl shape that allows the wine to properly breathe. I enjoy these tumblers because they are different and more casual, a perfect glass for quaffing a summer wine. Available at www.iwawine.com.
  • Do you like spicy sausages? If so, then you have to try Hans’ All Natural Gourmet Sausage. I recently ate the Chicken Sausage with Fresh Cilantro and it was spectacular, bold flavors with plenty of heat. Check their website www.hansallnatural.com to determine a retailer near you.

Wine Of The Month: Allegrini Valpolicella Classico ’02 ($12)

Friday, March 18th, 2005

Valpolicella is an easy drinking wine that is perfect for springtime, and Allegrini is one of the best producers. This wine is produced in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, and it’s a blend of three grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara). It has a medium body with flavors of cherry, plum and spice. This wine is particularly well balanced, the fruit and acidity are in perfect harmony. Allegrini Valpolicella would pair well with chicken, pork chops, and seafood. I think this is a really nice wine, and is a great value. It should be easy to find at your favorite retail store or online.