Bumbling around Chelsea can often be a dispiriting experience, so it’s a nice thrill when a show like this comes around. Through January 11, German artist Reinhard Mucha has a number of large-scale sculptures on view at Luhring Augustine. In press release lingo, his work is about “collective identity, memory, nationalism, the psychology of architecture and power, the museum as the locus for the creation of history, and the merging of industrial, historical and political landscapes.” (Deep breath). Maybe it’s because I grew up in New Jersey and was listening to the latest Real Estate album while walking through the gallery, but there’s also something decidedly nostalgic and downtrodden about Mucha’s materials, most of which look like they could have been culled from the wrecked interior of some shabby Cape Code in the Garden State.
What I like about Mucha’s “Hidden Tracks” exhibition is that I find it nearly impossible to clarify what I like about it, exactly. The closest I can come is to attest that these sculptures–part assemblage, part design project, part unfunctional furniture–seem like the product of a truly eccentric mind, fully occupied with its own codes and symbols. And yet the end results can stand on their own, before strangers, somehow communicating in a garbled way. In the back room, a large 2013 piece entitled Straight features rusty pipes, flashlights, an operative model train, and a number of boomboxes tuned to local radio stations. It’s enigmatic and compelling–personal and intensely hermetic without being pretentious.
In many ways, “Hidden Tracks” is the antithesis to Josephine Meckseper’s show, concurrently up at Andrea Rosen. (Gallerist’s Andrew Russeth rightly pegged it as one of 2013’s worst). Both artists work with the logic of the vitrine, with common materials, with systems of display. Yet Meckseper seems desperately intent on making art that looks like art, and ends up being oddly empty and highly superficial. Visit her show, and then stop by Mucha’s as an antidote, for an example of what art might look like when it’s made out of obsessive need, rather than market imperatives or an eagerness to please.
In a time when even airlines have scrapped free peanut service, a few righteous New York institutions are keeping their patrons in gratis bar snacks that are a far cry from stale Chex Mix. Almost makes the rising martini costs worth it.
10. Buffalo wings and nachos @ Rodeo Bar (Kips Bay) – Any place where the bar’s made out of a repurposed horse trailer knows the value of free. The kitschy hangout offers wings and nachos during happy hour, Monday through Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. 9. Truffled popcorn @ Desnuda (East Village) – The tiny ceviche bar has no kitchen, so the chef prepares seafood dishes right behind the bar. The view would be positively torturous without the bottomless paper cone of popcorn to nosh from, seasoned with just enough truffle salt. 8. Tater tots @ Trash (Williamsburg) – The Brooklyn dive is the sort of place that wouldn’t card you as a teenager — so it’s only fitting that they offer the cafeteria classic. Who knew tots complimented two-dollar PBR so well?
7. Antipasti @ Il Mulino (Greenwich Village) – Leaves no customer unstuffed, starting with free helpings of antipasti circulated through the restaurant and bar areas. 6. Soft pretzels and roasted almonds @ Blaue Gans (Tribeca) – The cozy German restaurant boasts one of New York’s most perfect pretzels, served to bar patrons upon request along with buttery almonds that’ll make it tough to ever go back to beer nuts. 5. Pizza @ Alligator Lounge (Williamsburg) and Crocodile Lounge (East Village) – The bi-borough bars have made their respective presences known by offering a free personal pizza with every drink, making each a great place to start or end a casual night out. 4. Panini @ Vero Midtown (Midtown East) – Every Monday night, the wine bar serves its crispy, cheesy panini with every drink order. 3. Cheese spread @ Blind Tiger Ale House (West Village) – The after-work appeal of Blind Tiger skyrockets during Wednesday’s happy hour (starting at 5 p.m.), when free cheese from neighborhood institution Murray’s is offered to patrons. 2. Free appetizers @ dell’anima (West Village) – From 4 to 6 p.m. on weekends, the acclaimed trattoria serves a variety of small Italian plates. 1. Curried popcorn @ Tailor (Soho): Serious drinkers swear by Tailor’s curry-dusted popcorn, which holds its own next to the mixologist-approved cocktail menu.