Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eric LoPresti, plutonium, mac n' cheese, oh my?!

Well, I am still full from last night's amazing "Different Cuisine," dinner (the artist dinner for Eric LoPresti's current show "Different Country"). Eric did a fantastic job discussing this new body of work and just how much where he came from factors in.

Growing up in the desert steppe of eastern Washington state near the Hanford plutonium production site seemed completely normal in his early years; his parents, as well as all of his friends' parents, worked at the famed Hanford sites developing many notable technological achievements during a period where Nuclear technology was growing rapidly. As a young boy playing in the school yard Eric never really thought about how notorious that region was; established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the Hanford site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

Above is a photograph taken in 1960 of the Hanford site; the historic B Reactor, the world's first plutonium production reactor, is visible in the distance. It wasn't until later that Eric became interested in this world history that happened to be so closely tied to his own family history. He started reading and researching everything about the area and as well as the Cold War, fascinated by the dichotomy posed by the atom bomb and how it was the "ultimate success of theoretical science" but also its "ultimate moral failure."

Growing up in this shadow, surrounded by the aftermath of that era and remembering how is dad and his friends' dads did work they were not allowed to talk about speaks to what he refers to as a "dark center." Still fascinated by this dark center LoPresti created his new landscape paintings to reflect it; maintaining his established focus on the physical and psychological aftermath of the Cold War, the physical pock marks of nuclear testing, and subsequent environmental clean-up campaigns (today, Hanford is still the most contaminated nuclear site in the country). Cool, right? I love impromptu history lessons! Now that we have the historical and geographical background for Eric's dinner, let's talk about the food...

Famed Williamsburg soul-food mecca, Pies and Thighs, did an amazing job catering for us. I never thought a kale salad could win me over (I LOVE MEAT) but it did! We also had a delicious black-eyed pea salad that was just the right amount of spice and sweet (fresh jalapenos and chopped sweet pickles do the trick). We then had entree plates piled with Pies and Thighs' signature fried chicken (so good that even Martha Stewart needed to get a piece), smoked beef brisket with homemade bbq sauce, and black pepper and cheddar macaroni and cheese. Needless to say, it was all irresistible. For those of you who could not join us I would definitely recommend making a trip and tasting the food for yourself (plus, Like the Spice is in walking distance and you could come see us too!) Eric's show is open until May 8th so get to planning your Pies and Thighs/Like the Spice adventure!

A huge thank you to all who were able to join us, and to the rest of you I hope you will join us for Jenny Morgan's dinner for One and the Many in June!