Must See: ‘AfriCOBRA: Now’ at Kravets Wehby Gallery in Chelsea

‘Spirit Sister,’ Nelson Stevens


In 1968, The Black Power Movement was at the height of its influence. Fighting for equality with a militant belief in self-sufficiency and acceptance, the movement encouraged radical thought and action for the Black community across the world. That same year, five members of the group came together to start their own movement: AfriCOBRA, or the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, with the goal of using art to, well, change the world.

A new exhibition, AfriCOBRA: Now, at Kravets Wehby Gallery in Manhattan, brings together art from the group to showcase the work from these subversive artists who, until now, have been relatively unsung. Featuring pieces by its founding members and many others, including Kevin Cole, Adger Owens, Wadsworth Jarrell and Renee Stout, the exhibit shines a light on art from an era — and a group – in which nothing was more powerful than self-love. Through painting and sculpture, these AfriCOBRA artists celebrated African culture and examined their experiences as Black artists in an ever-changing culture. With AfriCOBRA:Now, their voices are finally being heard.

Preview some of our favorite pieces from the exhibit, below.


‘AfriCOBRA: Now’ is on view at Kravets Wehby Gallery, 521 West 21st Street, now until August 16.


Photos courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York.

Purveyors of Posh Night Club Provocateur Unveil New Venue 

Flash Factory Theater – reclaimed chopped wood church crosses form the ceiling arches, a 20ft x 15ft genuine 1920’s era stained glass piece hangs behind the DJ booth

Provocateur owners Mike Satsky and Brian Gefter have announced plans to open their latest joint-venture, Flash Factory.  The new, 10,000 square foot, dance den, which is slated to open this fall at 229 West 28th Street in Chelsea, was once home to clandestine parties under the name, Shadow.

 “This is going to be a ticketed club for music people,” a spokesperson for the duo claimed. “Not a VIP room.”

Generally catering to a bottle-service and models (or at least aspiring ones) crowd, Satsky attracted venerable DJ talents to his tony nightspot Provocateur, located on the ground floor of Meatpacking’s Gansevoort Hotel.  Loco Dice, Eric Prydz and Sven Vath held court over the years and a similar, if not more dynamic, roster of talent has been promised at Flash Factory.

The club, now two years or more in the making, aims to be a hybrid: part contemporary night entertainment, part retro music hall; catering to a coterie of dedicated electronic dance music aficionados.

“Flash Factory is a creative music venue,” added Satsky. “We built a destination for artists whose priority is keeping it real.”  Whether you are a techno, rock, punk, or alternative hip hop fan, it’s our mission to produce an environment where everything, but most of all the music, feels right.”

A ticketed music audience can expect a healthy mix of DJ sets and live band acts. Stay tuned for updates as well as opening festivities this fall.


Flash Factory Lounge – reclaimed temple benches form the seating, while stained glass provides the backing to the bar

François-Xavier Lalanne’s Sheep Invade Chelsea

The sheep farm that has recently appeared at the Chelsea gas station on the corner of 10th Avenue and West 24th Street finally had its proper opening last night, as real estate developer Michael Shvo and Paul Kasmin Gallery launched the inaugural installation at New York’s newest public art site, Getty Station.

Those faux-wooly beasts—concrete sculptures by the late François-Xavier Lalanne—were fêted as they gazed blankly into space atop a series of grassy hillocks that had been planted around the decommissioned gas pumps, soon(ish) to be the site of a new luxury condo within spitting distance of the High Line.

Lalanne’s "Sheep Station" means something different to everyone. Are they grave portents of the art world’s sheep-like obedience to ritualistic trends? A populist dud? Or just really cute? Causing more of a stir than the animal sculptures, however, was the free-for-all nature of the converted convenience store. Everything from lumpy bags of beef jerky to cold beer and sacks of Sour Patch Kids was open game; guests milled around, thrilled with their illicit theft (despite being reminded by a few blasé security guards that "Hey, whatever, you can ‘steal’ what you like, with the exception of the Lalanne art books.")

Time will tell whether "Sheep Station" is remembered as a democratic celebration of public art, or simply the occasion for a hodgepodge crowd of poor art journalists and rich collectors, all equally and gleefully loading their bags with free chewing gum and jumbo-sized Cheetos.

BlackBook dropped by the opening reception last night. Check out the video below for a glimpse of the installation and reactions from some sheep-struck visitors, including young actor Caleb James, who provided a very informative mini-lesson on sheep that we have yet to fact-check.


Here’s the old gas station, from the not-yet-updated Google Street View:

Lukoil Gas Station, Chelsea


Image of "Sheep Station" by Joshua Kogan

If Only Every Soccer Game Was as Interesting as Man City v. Chelsea in Yankee Stadium

I went to my second-ever professional soccer game over the weekend. It was much different than my first, back in 1978, when I saw the New York Cosmos defeat the Washington Diplomats (the "Dips") in RFK Stadium. This game was an English Premier League exhibition match between Manchester City and Chelsea, and it was held at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night. My soccer-mad friend Namit and I were guests of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. Since I hold no allegiance to any team in that league, I decided to support "City," as Abu Dhabi is Manchester’s official destination partner, the team is owned by a member of  the ruling family, and they gave me a t-shirt. Being a Manchester United fan, Namit claimed to hate both teams equally, saying that he just wanted a competitive, entertaining match, but I found him cheering somewhat louder for Chelsea. In any case, it was indeed a competitive, entertaining match, perfect for American audiences, because things actually happened: a total of 8 goals were scored–a huge number for a "fitba" match–with Manchester City defeating Chelsea 5-3. If only every soccer game was like this, the sport might actually succeed on a professional level in America. Well, a few other tweaks might be necessary as well … 

Soccer Still Needs a Shot Clock

Like I said, I’m glad this was an aggressive, high-scoring game, but I’m afraid it was a fluke. This was an exhibition game, meaning it didn’t affect either team’s standing. As with the NBA All-Star Game, that means the focus was on offense, rather than those stultifyingly boring defensive battles that we saw during the vuvuzela-soaked 2010 World Cup. Lots of action, lots of shots on goal, lots of aggression. But if this game really counted, there’s every chance it would have been another 0-0 draw, and I simply don’t believe anybody on the planet, no matter how sophisticated they are to the nuances of the game, enjoys that outcome. Therefore, I reiterate my call to introduce a shot clock to soccer. Action: Americans have to have it, and the rest of the world might like it too. 

To Succeed On TV, The Game Needs Time Outs

Unless it’s on some premium cable channel, soccer broadcast in America needs to conform to our capitalistic system of shoehorning in a slew of obnoxious TV advertisements every 10-12 minutes or so. No, I don’t love watching TV commercials, but I do like having an occasional break to go to the restroom or the beer stand. If the teams can’t call a time out, the game should at least be divided into quarters, rather than two 45-minute halves. That’s a long time to sit still and watch nothing happen. And maybe if the players got more rest, they’d be more explosive in their drives to the goal. 

America Needs to Develop a Real Soccer Fan Base, Not a Bunch of Pseudo-English Wankers

Yankee Stadium wasn’t at capacity, but it was quite crowded for a cold spring evening featuring two foreign sports teams. For whatever reason, most of the fans in attendance were wearing the dark blue of Chelsea, but there were a fair amount of City fans as well, and they wasted no time in going after each other. When the taunts, jeers, and fight songs come with an English accent, they sound somewhat authentic and sincere. But when rival groups of American fans call each other cunts, as I witnessed in the concourse on our way to the exits, they sound like British wannabees. Even Madonna is coming to realize that she sounds silly when she tries to talk like the queen. Do English fans of the Yankees try to sound like they were brought up in the South Bronx? (I don’t know, do they?) In any case, this problem will fix itself if MSL really gets established stateside, but in the meantime some of the more vocal fans are veering deeply into hipster territory with their cultural appropriations.

Enough With the Flopping Already 

We Americans don’t have a leg to stand on in this debate (see the NBA), but good god it’s frustrating to see soccer players take dive after dive, clutching their legs and ankles in mock agony, begging the officials to penalize the other player for whatever egregious violation of sports rules and general morality he perpetrated. Even from the lofty perches of the upper decks, it’s pretty clear when a player’s faking it, and it doesn’t make them look very tough at all. In American football, which I’ll just refer to as football here, players pretend not to be injured even when their limbs are all but ripped from their bodies. There’s a lesson here for the soccer world. Quit trying to draw penalties and just get up and fight. 

We’ll Need to Build Some Dedicated Soccer Stadiums

Because, as nice as the new Yankee Stadium is, it’s not designed for soccer. The angles are just a little bit off, and the turf they had to move around to cover the base lines (see photo) just doesn’t look right. Still, for an exhibition game, it was fine. 

We Definitely Need to Call It Soccer, Not Football

First of all, soccer is the historically-accurate term for the game. It’s a derivitave of the term "assocation football," just like rugby is somtimes called rugger. I’ll admit that soccer has a lot more foot-to-ball contact than American football, but soccer’s such a cool word, it would be a shame not to use it. But really, I don’t care, I just like how Euros get so riled up over the so-called debate over what to call the "World’s Sport." 

But Still, Nice Game You Have There

It’s funny how Americans are perceived to be ignorant about soccer, when in fact every kid in the country plays soccer in school. What we’re ignorant of is professional soccer, because it’s not (yet) a major TV sport. But I love soccer, and have nothing but fond memories of sweaty summer nights as a kid, playing until we were devoured by mosquitoes and couldn’t see the ball in the dark. Hardly any equipment is required: all you need is a ball and a friend. Two backpacks will function as a goal just fine. And pretty soon we’re going to figure out how that offsides rule works, and then we’ll be just as knowledgeable about the game as your average punter down the pub.

But if pro soccer’s to succeed over here, we’re going to make a few changes. And when that happens, will the world welcome the game’s increased popularity, or will it regret trotting out two of the planet’s best teams in Yankee Stadium to get us hooked? 

[Related: How to Make Soccer More Interesting to Americans, Everyone Else; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Pinch Me, I’m Dreaming of Awesome Food

Something about the word “catering” just doesn’t bring to mind interesting food, let alone good food. At Pinch Food Design, co-founders Bob Spiegel and TJ Girard are changing that, but they are also altering the way that the goods are displayed and utilizing what they dubbed, “food furniture” to do it.

“A party is a live moment, and it’s only going to be that way in that moment just that one time,” said Girard, the designer of the pair. “something that is really pure and exciting about combining memorable and entertaining presentations with delicious cuisine.”

Last night I got a double taste of what they have been doing since 2011 at this sleek studio in Chelsea, and each aspect was more delightful than the last. In one section, a handsome waiter put out clipboards that had a sheet covered in thin slices of cheese, bread, and charcuterie. The bottom of the board had a circular groove cut in it, perfect for resting the makeshift plate on a glass of pinot gris.

As the night went on, more sharply dressed waiters came by with plates of “green eggs and ham,” which had neat little compartments built in them to stash the used spoons and toothpicks. Another round showcased a long sandwich holder that, instead of inserting trays of food into a conversation, created a line in the center so people on all sides could pluck a truffle-laced bite.

The back section featured a “rolling table,” which was covered in white marbles so dishes could easily slide over to the guests without teetering. Here they dished up novel plates of sashimi before switching over to a multi-layered dessert operation that involved coconut-mango sauce inside what looked to be a silicone udder.

“I think that event planners and caterers tend to not make the riskiest choices in food and design because they’re usually preparing an event for a large group of people,” said Spiegel, the executive chef, in a written statement. “If we can do something that pushes the envelope, does not seem too risky, yet is out on the edge with its presentation and robust flavors, then we’ve made an impact that will resonate with clients and their guests, and hopefully impact the catering industry as a whole.”

All the tools Pinch Food Design displayed were of their own making, and are ones they utilize on a daily basis. Also, while the plates, trays, tables, and displays shined, Spiegel’s food also took a bow. The menu, said Spiegel, is a retake on classic flavors, and incorporates multicultural cuisines with new American fare. So far, the list includes over 300 choices, and one day, I hope, I will get to try them all.

A Cherry Bomb of Sushi Hits Chelsea

There’s something sexy about Cherry, the latest venture into Asian cuisine from BONDST’s Jonathan Morr, which opens up in the Dream Downtown hotel this Wednesday. First, the décor by Studio Gaia exudes a pop-culture romance with a cherry-red, cherry-shaped entryway. Once inside, the plush velvet seats, polished wood floors, and merlot-colored wall hangings cry out for ruby-lipped ladies to dine clandestinely with men in snappy suits. Second, with former Le Cirque and Momofuku Ma Peche chef Andy Choi leading the kitchen, they are pumping out modern Japanese cuisine with a French twist. This means you can find sharable treats including foie gras with short rib gyoza, uni-poached eggs, black cod shumai, and tuna spring rolls.

However, Cherry’s specialty is their sushi and sashimi menu. With this, you can order à la carte or go for the omakase tasting menu, where Choi dishes out his selection of items including salmon belly sushi, spicy caviar, giant clam, and golden amberjack sashimi. They also have a selection of sakes curated by sake specialist Chris Johnson, which features some rare and special varieties like Harada Nama Muroka and Daishichi Myouk Rangyoku. In true classy fashion, you can also reserve a bottle of liquor for your visits, or, just settle into one of their craft cocktails.

Each dessert comes with a cherry on the top, and, since the kitchen stays open until 2am, you can eat early, in the light of day, or secretly at night, depending on your company.

Q&A With Kristin Sollenne, the Young Chef Taking Charge of Bocca Di Bacco

With only 26 years under her belt, chef Kristin Sollenne has undertaken a big job. As executive chef, she oversees all three locations of Bocca Di Bacco, including their just-opened location in Chelsea. Sollenne brings her love of healthy Italian fare to the table, as well as a bright approach to using season ingredients to whip up dishes of braised quail and polenta, port wine-poached pears, and her signature pasta dish, Cavatelli di Grano Arso. I got a hold of Sollenne to find out what she is cooking with, where she hopes to take the restaurant, and her future, which, she said, hopefully involves being on the Food Network. 

What do you hope to do at the new Bocca Di Bacco?
I hope to create a warm and intimate atmosphere where people come to experience delicious food and exclusive wines any night of the week. This is why so many customers at our Hell’s Kitchen and Theater District locations love about us, and what we are excited to bring to Chelsea.

What seasonal ingredients are you working with right now?
This is my favorite time of year! Seasonal ingredients that I’m using right now are chestnuts, artichokes, beets, winter squash, pomegranates, and Brussels sprouts.

I heard you helped your parents lose weight, any tips for keeping off the pounds during the holidays?
The holidays are definitely a time when it’s easy to indulge because we’re surrounded by friends and family and enjoying this time of year. I recommend moderating your portion sizes. Don’t deprive yourself, because that can sometimes lead to over indulgence later on. Satisfy your craving with a small taste.

How did you get on the professional cooking path?
I’ve always had a passion for healthy cooking. After helping my parents achieve their goals and set them on a healthy sustainable lifestyle, I set my eyes on the Big Apple to launch my culinary career. After working on the Upper West Side, and re-developing menus by introducing my farm-to-table philosophy, it was quickly noticed that customers were drawn towards my fresh and light Italian fare.

Did you ever think you would be an executive chef at 26-years-old?
I’m the first to say that hard work and determination go a long way. I don’t think age has anything to do with it, I just let the food speak for itself.

What chefs and/or restaurants influence you the most? 
I love Giada De Laurentis because she has such passion and personality with her cooking. I hope one day to be on the Food Network and introduce my cooking to the world. Mario Batali and his empire is another great inspiration and influence for me since dining at a restaurant should be an experience. 

What is your favorite place to eat after you are done working?
I love sushi, NOBU, Haru and Blue Ribbon are my favorites. I also enjoy Arte Café on the Upper West Side, which also happens to be the first restaurant I worked at in the city.

Seasonal Small Plates Take a Trip to Chelsea by Way of Willow Road

Located right in front of the High Line in the old John Dory space, Chelsea residents can now rejoice over the opening of Willow Road, a brand new “gastrobar” that offers craft cocktails and, as is the food fashion of the day, rustic, seasonal small plates.

"We are incredibly excited to be located in Chelsea, it’s such a vibrant and creative neighborhood,” said Will Malnati, who co-owns the restaurant with Doug Jacob. “We’re offeringa more elevated casual spot with a great vibe that people can enjoy throughout the day, and we really want it to be a neighborhood place with a focus on food."

Chef Todd Macdonald, formally of the now closed Cru and Clio in Boston, runs the kitchen and turns out flavorful twists on American classics including fried chicken with jerk seasoning, lamb sliders with sumac aioli, mussels with kumquat butter, and macaroni and cheese laced with lemon, sausage, and fennel pollen.

The bar side of the gastro is run by mixologist Greg Seider, a partner at Summit Bar who has also turned out cocktails at Minetta Tavern and Le Bernardin, before settling here to make up the drinks menu, which included tipples like the Japanese Old Fashioned with Yamazaki 12.

The space pays homage to the old Nabisco Factory that occupied it oh-so-many years ago, and includes a giant neon sign sporting the old slogan for Triscuit crackers, “Baked by Electricity.” Subway tiles and exposed brick give it an urban-rustic feel, and the large cartoonish mural of Chelsea by James Gulliver Hancock helps complete the ode to the neighborhood.

Sake Lovers Unite: Celebrating an Ancient Beverage Tonight in Manhattan

In the ancient tradition of Japanese drinking, New York welcomes the all-day sake festival, The Joy of Sake, to The Altman Building in Chelsea today. For twelve years this event has taken place, and every time it gets a little bit bigger. This year, they host 171 sake breweries and will pour 359 premium labels that range from junmai, ginjo, and daiginjo sakes.

“Sake is not the piping hot beverage most people perceive it to be,” said Chris Johnson, a judge at the U.S. National Sake Appraisal and owner of Manhattan’s Bao Noodles. “My hope is for guests to leave with a new appreciation and a better understanding of what theypersonally like.”

From 6 to 9 PM, try sakes from Hakutsuru, Hiro, and TY KU, and though it comes with a steep $100 price tag to enter, 84 of the bottles offered won gold medals at the 2012 U.S. National Sake Appraisal, and 201 of the labels they feature can’t normally be found in the United States. To pair with these tipples, some of New York’s top restaurant will be serving up snacks, including sun-dried tomato marinated kurobuta pork belly from Brushstroke, beet and coconut soup by wd-50, and slow-roasted duck with sansho-miso sauce by Hibino, plus more. Even if you don’t know much about sake, the event aims to teach beginners about the honorable beverage as well as give experiences sake drinkers something to get excited about. Plus, after tasting all the joys of sake, you have every right to shout, “Sake to me!” Or not.