Cafeteria Group Breathes New Life into Empire Diner

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This week, Empire Diner reopened at the helm of Cafeteria Group and Chef/Proprietor John DeLucie. The freestanding building in West Chelsea with its iconic silver, art deco façade has remained a New York staple since first opening in 1976. The establishment in its original state closed in 2010 before going through various new owners and rebirths, and most recently remaining vacant since 2015.

“Partnering with John for this project was a natural fit with his expertise in classic, elevated comfort food and eye for perfection,” says Stacy Pisone, partner of Cafeteria Group and co- owner of Empire Diner. “We’ve been an integral part of Chelsea for two decades since the opening of Cafeteria in 1998, and could not be more excited to expand our portfolio in this dynamic neighborhood.”

The updated design of the space maintains the traditional New York décor with a slightly more contemporary touch. Working with interior design and architecture firm Nemaworkshop, they managed to restore and accentuate the authentic stainless steel panels. They’ve also included wood paneling in the ceiling to contribute to a more refined appeal while complementing the unique structure.

Chef de Cuisine Justin Neubeck brings his passion for quality seasonal ingredients and his classically refined influences to the table (pun intended). The menu features “Small Plates” as an upscale take on traditional diner favorites. Entrees like the Braised Beef Short Rib with horseradish gremolata and the Sourdough Pretzel Fried Chicken with chili mustard sauce give the menu an irresistibly hearty appeal. Not one to stray from the diner basics, the Empire Double Patty Burger with American cheese served with herbed french fries is sure to be a crowd favorite for locals and visiting food enthusiasts.

Don’t forget dessert. Pastry Chef George McKirdy puts his personal touch on the American diner favorites with a three-layer Coconut Cake with butter cream and pineapple ribbons and the Strawberry Chiffon Cake served with vanilla cream strawberry compote and a toasted almond crumb. Sure to inspire a sweet tooth is the Empire S’mores Torte with toasted marshmallow, semi-sweet chocolate mousse, house made graham crackers, and vanilla ice cream.

The popular locale is also sure to become a favorite nightlife destination for a low-key cocktail. Cafeteria Group’s Head Mixologist Jenny Castillo uses clean and simple ingredients to put a current twist on classic drinks. One tasty libation is the Salty Dog, made with pressed fennel and grape juices.

Although only time will tell if this new iteration of a classic New York fixture will last, it seems to fit the niche for Chelsea locals who fear change. With the leadership of a Chelsea favorite of two decades in Cafeteria Group, the iconic establishment seems to be in trusted hands for a proper revival. And with a dining atmosphere and menu curated by some talented names in hospitality, it’s worth holding out hope that it will adapt to a new New York.

Empire Diner is now open at 210 10th Avenue in New York City. For reservations or more information, visit the website or call (212) 335-2277.

Paramore Returns With New Video And Announcement of New Album

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It’s been four years since Paramore last released an album – last up was the 2013 self-titled LP that included the single “Ain’t It Fun.” Now, at last, the rock group is back, dropping a certified treasure trove of new material upon us today.

Not only have they released a music video for their single “Hard Times,” they’ve announced an entire new album, After Laughter, featuring the song as the first track. And, to really get us going this Wednesday morning, they’ve released the track list and album art. Take a look:

 

Track list:

01 Hard Times
02 Rose-Colored Boy
03 Told You So
04 Forgiveness
05 Fake Happy
06 26
07 Pool
08 Grudges
09 Caught In The Middle
10 Idle Worship
11 No Friend
12 Tell Me How

And album art:

paramorenewartafterlaughter

Update: Pepsi Apologizes to Public (And Kendall Jenner?) for Problematic Commercial

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Earlier today, Pepsi defended the public backlash concerning it’s latest ad, featuring Kendall Jenner appropriating images from Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump protests. At the time, the company said: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”

Now, Coca-Cola’s rival seems to have admitted defeat and is licking their wounds. They’ve pulled all of the ads and discontinued any further rollout, in conjunction with this statement:

Very interesting that Kendall has received a direct apology, while protestors and memers of the Black Lives Matter movement have not. Fun, fun stuff!

Sounds of a Genius: ‘Moonlight’ Oscar-Winner on His Musical Passions

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Tarell Alvin McCraney, the man behind Moonlight, shares the songs that inspire him.

“I don’t know if people of gay, lesbian, or queer status are more active dreamers than others,” McCraney says, “but when you are sort of pressed to have an inner world to yourself, you populate it with some fantastic people and things.”

McCraney, who wrote the play on which the Oscar-winning Moonlight was based, has long been an extraordinarily gifted writer, with a string of plays that explore the black experience in America, including Head of Passes, which had its world premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, Choir Boy (staged in both London and New York City), and his acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister plays.

“City Called Heaven”  St Olaf Choir

I heard this in my first year of college, during winter break when everyone else had gone home. This song rang out and shone a spotlight on a pain I could not gather and pull out on my own. It spoke of slave narratives and cotton fields but also of not being enough for this world and longing to be accepted, to be gathered up and taken to the next. Something I had felt my whole life but could not express. The lyrics talk about hearing of a city where there is peace and the need to call that city, Heaven, my home.

“Flyin’ High”  Marvin Gaye

I heard this song very early in my life thanks to my parents, who had exquisite taste in music. It made me well up and cry, and I said to my mom, ‘I don’t understand why we would want to listen to it.’ And she said, ‘because this man is a genius. And this is what genius music is supposed to do.’ Later I discovered that my desires, and my need for self-control, as well as the battles with addiction around me, all found a call and response in this song. It is what genius music does. It allows us a conversation that we cannot have alone to come fumbling forward—like those salty tears I welled up the first time I listened to this.

“Free  Deniece Williams

The smell of marijuana in the air, air conditioning, and ocean breeze. This song reminds me of my neighborhood of Liberty City in Miami. The sound is both bitter and sweet, free and constrained.

“Hyper-ballad”  Bjork, Brodsky Quartet Version 

There are films, books, stories waiting to come spilling out of this liquid beauty.
I once saw a piece choreographed to Hyper Ballad when I was in High School and cried so much out of joy and pain, I think it was the first time I had felt or sensed the sublime. I could not explain how free I felt. I thought it was the ballet, but I listened to the song again on the train and instantly the world was animated by the song, the words, Bjork’s voice, the strings stirring… I wept again.

“I’m On My Way (Live)”  Mahalia Jackson 

Have you ever heard a live performance and felt you can see the entire concert in your mind, or at least can see the performer, the way their body moves towards or away from the microphone? This live version of this song, and Mahalia’s siren like call, the piano’s rhythm make me believe I am there, listening, amen-ing, swooning with the crowd as this vessel delivers spirit.

“Paranoid Android”  Radiohead

A masterpiece that shows us what modern day suites should look like. It takes the angst of an ever-growing electronically dependent future and explores the nuances of that generation. The song is so hot, then so cool, then so messy and silly and then smooth and succinct. It serves for me, always, as an example of what a large vision can accomplish.

“Rouge”  Lou Reed

I love this song. I choreograph solos to it in all the bedrooms I stay in around the world.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit”  Tori Amos 

A perfect example of how to take a piece of work and turn it into something all your own, adding your own powers to the conversation that is already there. I love the original, and will never forget the day I came home from school, the video debuted on MTV and my mother was rocking out to this song: “These white boys are getting down.” I didn’t want to smile, although I can today, and did at the time in my heart. I loved that song and I’m glad she did too. But the Amos cover adds another layer that is at one time subdued and yet wild and unmanageable in pathos.

“Sinnerman”  Nina Simone

One, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three. It’s a lesson in rhythm: where it can take us, where it can leave us, and how we can get back. I wrote my first play to the rhythm of this song. I just played it over and over and over and wrote and listened and cried and prayed and… one, two, three.

“Warda’s Whorehouse”  Phillip Glass & Foday Musa Sosa

Another song, intimate, haunting, refraining. I stumbled across it while doing research on Peter Brook, who used it for a production of Jean Genet’s The Screens. Its tight musical elements hearken to something ancient but serve a style that is contemporary. It wakes in me the want for discipline, but the need for carnality.

Escape Plan: Mexico City

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Photo by Eneas De Troya

Yes, being ranked by The New York Times as the world’s top destination is always a good thing, but even before winning the honor in January, Mexico City—or CDMX as the sprawling capital is now branded—was always a darling destination with much better food at much better prices than other global favorites, like Berlin.

For Americans, in particular, the relatively short distance (from New York, it’s quicker to fly there than to San Francisco) makes it ideal for a long weekend. Or several. And although the city is so vast that one would never manage to explore all of it, the gentrified neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma, with their tree-lined streets and stately villas, make for a happy stomping ground.

The restaurant scene is lively, and there is no shortage of good bars, like Romita Comedor, with its appealing roof deck, and the newly opened Blanco Colima, occupying an imposing white mansion on one of the city’s signature tree-lined roads.

But don’t plan too much—CDMX is made for accidental discoveries, such as 123, a rustic coffee shop (named after its street number on Calle Artículo) first spotted on a leisurely bicycle ride, then revisited each morning for splendid cappuccinos and the moody Charlie Parker soundtrack. A magazine rack on the wall offers customers a selection of vintage journals—a nice touch. Make a beeline for The Divine Spouse, by José de Ibarra, a painting of a rhapsodic Jesus lying in a field of psychedelic flowers at Museo Franz Mayer, a peaceful haven on the site of an old monastery. If you prefer your art contemporary, you can’t do better than Museo Tamayo.

Guests of the Le Méridien get free entry to the Tamayo as part of the property’s unique Unlock Art program. And don’t miss the hotel’s fantastic Sunday brunch: a cornucopia of Mexican specialties, from cactus salad to fried pork rinds. You can work it off afterward on a bike, available through the city’s excellent share program, or from the hotel concierge.

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Museo Franz Mayer

When the World Goes to Shit, There’s Still Whisky

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Oh whisky, what would we do without you? A drink of poets, whisky has felt especially useful during the long dark night that is our national nightmare. One sip and you are transported to a Highland Glen, or a windswept Scottish shore.

There are whiskies for every temperament, of course, from the floral pepperiness of Highland Park, the country’s northernmost distillery, to the sweet brininess of Old Pulteney; but a long-time favorite has always been Bruichladdich (pronounced BrookLaddie), one of Scotland’s more eccentric and most inventive distilleries.

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Back in the mists of time—well, December 2000, to be precise (when we were still arguing about the Gore v. Bush election results)—a gentleman by the name of Mark Reynier took a gamble on a mothballed whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay, famous as the home for the country’s smokiest whiskies (most evidenced in the island’s notorious Laphroaig).

But one of those whiskies—Bruichladdich—is not smoky at all, having dispensed with the tradition of using peat smoke to dry its barley in the 1960s. It was this distillery that Reynier salvaged. Under the guiding hand of master distiller Jim McEwan (poached from nearby Bowmore), Reynier and his investors rebuilt the 120-year old whisky distillery, and then set about restoring the lovely and delicate nectar to its former glory. Opened in 1881, Bruichladdich was best-known for the tall and narrow-necked stills used for distilling the spirit, a piece of Victoriana which has been miraculously retained.

More than that, though, the ethos that animates Bruichladdich today is rooted deeply in the idea of terroir—not just the sea gales that batter this rocky outcrop, but locally-grown barley that helps keep island farmers in business. The bottle’s aquamarine color is a tribute to the extraordinary color of the ocean when the sun shines.

Scottish whisky takes time to mature—a good ten years to be considered at all acceptable—but while Reynier and McEwan were waiting for their first bottlings (from 2001) to be ready for market, they challenge the industry’s consensus, launching a young and peaty Scotch, Port Charlotte, as well as investing in a Scottish gin, The Botanist. Experimentation has become something of a hallmark, and now Bruichladdich is known also for Octomore—a super peaty whisky—and its line of Black Art bottlings, made from back stocks of whisky and issued in limited supplies. There are 12,000 bottles of Black Art 5, created by Bruichladdich’s current master distiller, Adam Hannett, in which the youngest whisky is 24 years old. The taste is raisiny, with dark fruits and Christmas spice. At $399 it’s definitely a special occasion whisky, but you’ll have to wait until February when the bottling is officially released to enjoy it. In the meantime there’s still stocks of the more affordable Black Art 4, but catch it while you can. Otherwise, you really can’t go wrong with a $60 bottle of the Classic Laddie, finished in first-fill bourbon, sherry, and French wine casks, and with a lovely floral nose and a lingering taste of honey on the tongue.

For suppliers, visit bruichladdich.com

 

How to Spot Tyrants: A Literary Guide

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We live in dark times. America’s President-elect is busy appointing a group of dangerous right-wing ideologues to his administration. Meanwhile, right wing populist parties are on the rise across Europe, and already in power in Hungary and Poland, and may soon be in power in France. WTF.

There are multiple reasons for the crisis facing western democracy, but not least among them is our catastrophic failure to learn from history. We may live in the information age, but people spend less time reading books than they do absorbed in social media where facts are disposable, and truth can be anything you want it to be. Books are our greatest defense against ignorance.

To quote the great Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” To get you started we invited the journalist and LGBT activist, Masha Gessen, author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, to put together a list of ten books that explore the meaning of dictatorships and the consequences of autocratic rule.

  • Best known for her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which she coined the term “the banality of evil,” Arendt’s earlier book, from 1951, has become one of the most influential studies of totalitarian ideas and regimes on either side of the political divide, illuminating the shared characteristics of Nazism and Communism.
  • For the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, the Holocaust was not simply the most grotesque of a litany of grotesqueries committed upon the Jews, but a direct consequence of the modern world itself. Far from modern life being in opposition to barbarity, Bauman argues that it enables it.
  • Freedom is not easy—it comes with dangers and responsibilities. In this classic text, Erich Fromm argues that if we cannot find a way to live the complexities of freedom, humanity will turn to authoritarianism. As part of his analysis, Fromm addresses many issues pertinent to contemporary life: the coercion to conform, the desire to be a part of “something greater,” the loss of authentic thought and action all emerge as consequences of what he describes as an escape from freedom.
  • Vaclav Havel is one of the great heroes of the 20th century, a playwright and towering intellect frequently jailed for his involvement in dissident organizations like Charter 77, who wrought change by simply deciding to act as if Communist Czechoslovakia was a free society. Among the arguments he posited in this extensive essay was that by “living in truth” in their daily lives, people could differentiate themselves from the officially mandated culture prescribed by the State since power depends on submission to succeed.
  • An extraordinary document of life under the Nazis, Victor Klemperer’s diaries weave details of his life in 1930s Germany into a powerful indictment of a state moving ineluctably along the road of tyranny. The son of a rabbi, Klemperer converted to Protestantism in his twenties but was still forced to endure the deprivations and humiliations of German Jews. He survived the war thanks to his wife’s “racial purity” and lived in east Germany, working in Dresden as a professor in Romance languages until his death in 1960.
  • Of all the chroniclers of the Nazi genocide, few are as lucid and as clear-eyed as Primo Levi, an Italian chemist who was transported to Auschwitz and miraculously survived to tell the tale. Best known for his extraordinary biography, If This is a Man (known in the U.S. by the less enigmatic title, Survival in Auschwitz), Levi’s last published work before his suicide in 1987 is a powerful meditation on the culture and mindset of both the operators and the victims of the extermination camps.
  • A passionate activist for social justice, and a fierce critic of the Vietnam war, Robert Lifton’s specialty is the relationship between psychology and violence, Lifton was particularly interested in the process of “psychic numbing,” whereby some people become insensible to the pain of others. It is, in essence, how bad people are able to get away with bad things.
  • Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychoanalyst famous for promoting sexual liberation—and later imprisoned in the U.S.—published this book in 1933, long before Hitler unleashed his Final Solution. His analysis of how the National Socialists came to power in Germany broadens into a stunning critique of modern society, and the devastating implications of our attitudes towards sex, religion, the family, and the state. 
  • Published in English 1924, and the first novel to be banned by the Soviet Censorship Board, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is a dystopian novel about a future nation constructed almost entirely of glass in order to aid mass surveillance. Said to have influenced both Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, We imagines a world in which freedom and happiness are incompatible. He writes, “A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don't know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn't even be worth reading.”
  • Marie Vassiltchikov was a white Russian princess with a front row seat of the Nazi war machine, in large part due to her roles as secretary to Adam von Trott, mastermind of the unsuccessful 20th of July plot to assassinate Hitler.

Meet Emmi, the Singer-Songwriter Who Dazzles in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ (Exclusive)

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If you haven’t heard up-and-coming singer-songrwriter Emmi’s gorgeously croaky voice yet, you’re in for a real treat. The musician has had quite a year: featured as the goblin lounge singer in the box office smash Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and endorsed by fellow artist Taylor Swift, Emmi’s on the verge of superstardom. Take a listen to her new single, “Couldn’t Care Less,” below.

We chatted with the crooner about her story, her idols, and what makes her want to sing (oh, and the current political climate of the world).

I’d like to start by getting you to tell your story – firstly, where were you born? I read on your site you travelled a lot growing up? How come?

I was born in Devon, England. We left when I was three for Australia and my Dad was a pilot for a voluntary organization so we ended up living in places like Alice Springs and Papua New Guinea as I was growing up. I had 9 schools by the time I settled back in Perth, West Australia for high school. So being the new girl was always the norm for me.

When did you first take a big interest in music, and know you wanted to be a musician?

I took a huge interest in music from about 5 or 6. I would save up pocket money to buy Tchaikovsky cassettes and I’d just rinse classical music. Odd really, because my parents were more Elton John, Pink Floyd kind of fans. But I just loved the escapism of it all, like I was floating above the world. It wasn’t till I learned to write, much much later in life, that I realized music could be a career for me, and I got that burn to go chase it. I didn’t like my voice, so it was always going to start with the writing for me.

Are there songs that stick out as formative in your life and career?

I think Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor was a big moment for me… it was the birth of my love of pop and a realization that pop could be credible. I was a weird kid, listening to classical music, then it was all the jazz greats, then the Beach Boys. (I was stuck on them for two years straight and owe all harmony knowledge to that time!) I was convinced I was born in the wrong era and I didn’t understand music of my own generation too well. Mum gave me Alicia for my birthday though, and the first track is this sort of interlude, where she’s playing the Moonlight Sonata and speaking over it with this cooler than school husky New York tone…and I just fell in love immediately. It was the meeting of two wonderful worlds. I learned that album from start to finish by ear that summer.

Where are you living now – what’s your recording process like? In a fancy studio? At home?

I’m living in London but I float between here, the states, and around Europe. I record wherever I go really. I am lucky enough to be in studios most days, wherever I go, and I work with some fantastic men and women. But I always carry a mic with me on every flight, and I do a lot of recording at home too. Sometimes they’re the best ones. You are so relaxed and in your own zone. It’s a lot less cerebral.

You were a songwriter before breaking out as a singer. What kind of songs have you written? What kind of music are you drawn to? Is the same music you write for other people the kind of thing you like to sing?

I write everything. I’ve worked with folk bands, soul, pop, EDM, even ghost written for rap artists, so as a writer I’m a bit of a chameleon. I love diving in and out of other artist’s worlds and immersing myself in them. It’s almost like acting really. It’s not a genre specific thing for me, music. It’s just storytelling with different backdrops. I’m truly drawn to anything, as long as it’s beautiful and artful. But what I write for myself is almost a hot pot of my favorite bits of all those genres, all in together.. like a midnight feast of my favorite foods.

You’ve had a big year – Taylor Swift, Fantastic Beasts. And revelations about fame as you start to garner more recognition?

I’ve learnt not to read comments too often. I am very lucky, because I am still a new name, that the majority of the comments I receive or emails are beautiful and generous. But every now and then you’ll get a nasty one. I’ve learned to laugh a little. Someone created a new account once just to say they’d like to poop on my face. I was flattered by the effort. I think it was Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ that says “If you can meet with triumph and disaster; and treat those two imposters just the same…” and I love that.

Did you see Fantastic Beasts? Did you like it? You’re the voice of a goblin lounge singer, yes? Do you relate to her?

I went to the premier and walked my first red (blue) carpet a couple weeks ago. So I did… but I was a little giddy from it all, so I want to go and see it again in case I missed anything. It’s fantastic. Totally brilliant. The special effects are incredible. Eddie is of course exceptional. And there is this creature called the Niffler that is totally adorable.
I play a goblin jazz singer. She’s a saucy little thing in a sparkly dress, performing with her goblin band and giving it plenty of shoulder roll for the patrons. You’re not quite sure if she’s sexy or cute to be honest. It was a motion captured character so it was wonderful seeing her for the first time. And in an odd way…I get her entirely yes. She is literally the opposite of me to look at…bald, short… I mean she’s glitzy so that’s not me at all! But she’s almost the embodiment of all the things I’m quite afraid to be in reality.

Do you have an album on the way? What are your upcoming plans with your music career?

I have a single on the way. And I have made a pact with myself the album is coming out in 2017. Whether that will be through my own label or someone else’s remains to be seen. I am currently driving things solo and learning so much, but after two years of soft releases and with all the luck that has come my way in return, it certainly feels the right time to put a whole body of work out.

Is there a goal you have in your career that you feel would be the ultimate dream? An Oscar, a Grammy…

A grammy would be fantastic. But to be honest I don’t have award goals. My dream was always to make what I do for love, my living. And I’m basically there. So I’m living it! But I would love to perform a night of my music with an orchestra. I think that would be the ultimate for me. Emmi with the LSO… Albert Hall. No, that’s too lofty…I feel embarrassed for saying it… but that’s what’s in my head…

It’s been a crazy year for the world, politically. Any thoughts on this current political climate?

So many. And so many of them too unformed to share publicly. But I will say this… I believe human beings are at heart good, but fear is a very powerful force sometimes that can change the shape of our hearts, even collectively. We can’t change our circumstances but we can choose to fight fear with love that’s even louder in our own communities, listen to each other instead of talking so much, and change the atmosphere. The power is, although sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, in our hands. And if anything 2016 has been a wake up call. I hope we hear it.

Reuven Israel’s Future Perfect Showing at LA’s Shulamit Nazarian Gallery

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Stepping into “As Above, So Below,” Reuven Israel’s new show at Shulamit Nazarian in Los Angeles, is to experience a disorienting Alice Through the Looking Glass moment. Something about the playful candy colors and textural contrasts feels trippy and otherworldly. In notes that accompany the show’s catalog, Israel expresses a keen desire to escape the bounds of literalism in favor of “a space for fantasy, for imagination.” On the evidence of this mind-expanding show he’s succeeded. There’s a lovely, elegant composition and poise on view, apparent in the way the foot and head of his sculptures are connected by a slender copper rod. The whole effect is surreal, seductive, and slyly sexual: you want to run your hand over the polished curves.

  • Reuven Isreal, from the exhibition As Above, So Below, 2016
  • Reuven Israel, Black Out, 2016, Copper coated steel rod and painted MDF
  • Reuven Israel, Yellow Belly, 2016, Copper coated steel rod and painted MDF
  • Reuven Isreal, from the exhibition As Above, So Below, 2016

Although Israel is influenced by pop art, there’s a touch of Kandinsky in his work here. Color and form are paramount, but everything is so expertly crafted, so pristine and unblemished, that you might reasonably wonder if you are looking at high tech components fresh off the production line. It’s a touch futuristic, as if Elon Musk has hooked up with Philip K Dick. And it’s a touch sacred, too. Israel grew up in Jerusalem, and you sense the influences of minarets and domes on works such as “At First Blush” and “Yellow Belly,” but whether you see space ships or houses of worship may not matter. Everything here is reaching for the sky. Rocket man or cleric, we’re all seeking meaning in the vastness of the cosmos.

Reuven Israel is at Shulamit Nazarian, 17 N. Venice Blvd, Venice, California  90291