A pop-up show properly so called, drawings as culinary antipasti and, of course, a cameo appearance (or two) by my neighbor's cat in these new art picks.
POP-UPS FROM PRAGUE: VOJTECH KUBASTA
The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th St., through March 15th
Many of us surely had our eyes widened, minds blown and imaginations immeasurably nourished by those somewhat chunky, somewhat delicate, at times structurally questionable, definitively delightful and meta-lexical volumes called pop-up books. As it turns out, for those of us who were raised on this occidental side of the Pond, we were likely never exposed to the works of perhaps the form's greatest, most prolific master, Vojtech Kubasta; although his books were extensively translated and millions of copies were printed, their circulation was concentrated in Eastern Europe and Britain. Visit the Grolier Club to get a long overdue look at how an illustrator and paper engineer par excellence converted simple materials into book-bound theaters brimming with now potential, now kinetic brilliance.
FERRAN ADRIÀ: NOTES ON CREATIVITY
The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster St., through February 28th
Perhaps you've seen the documentary from a few years ago, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, in which Adrià and his team of culinary wizards spend six months developing or, more accurately, concocting an extensive menu consisting almost entirely of dishes and amuse-bouches you might never have imagined feasible or, in certain instances, edible. His is a bizarre form of cuisine, to be sure, and for some it's more interesting in its painstaking devotion to innovative ingredients and processes—merging science and substance in a realm of palatal cognizance—than it is as, say, food. But there's no denying the profound creativity behind it all, and it's not a stretch at all to simply label it art. Its aesthetic pleasures are abundant, to be sure, and the results are far more sculptural than merely 'well-plated.' Examining Adrià's preparatory drawings ranging from the whimsical to the meticulously annotated will give you deeper insight into a rather singular chef's creative mind.
DIVINE FELINES: CATS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, long-term installation
Various forms of research have occasionally all but confirmed that even the best fed, most coddled, prettiest groomed and most seemingly needy domestic felines are still—as most dog lovers and even some cat owners would attest—generally indifferent creatures with limited communicative capacities. But whatever. I'm still convinced, for instance, that my neighbor's grayishly fuzzy, amiably plump, diurnally quite agoraphobic cat, Shadow, a.k.a The Shadow, is thrilled to see me when she is away and I step in to 'Shadowtend,' and that he relishes with deep awareness the particular way in which I mash up his wet food and centrally punctuate it with a kitty treat (only sometimes, Pam!)—and that he understands most everything I say even though I speak to him in Italian, and that it's not just the purring sound of the word that gets him so enthusiastic when he hears bravo stretched out into a long-rolled-r brrrrrrrrraaaavo. I could go on about The Shadow for a very long time—how he's grown so fully into his name, for example, his courageous overcoming of trial and tribulation, his adorable evasiveness—but I'll resist while encouraging you to visit the Brooklyn Museum to see how various species of felines were praised, raised, revered and represented in ancient Egypt, ostensibly their first locus of domestication. Expect to find more than just token sphinxes. (And in case he's reading: Ciao Shadow!)
12TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW
New York Transit Museum, Grand Central Terminal, through February 23rd
There's certainly no specific time of year to get excited about glimpsing or even playing with model train sets, at least not for true enthusiasts. But enthusiasts, casual admirers and all-but-aloof viewers alike might agree that if there were such a time, winter it might be—more specifically, even, that part of winter we call the holiday season. Since that time is now upon us, you've at least that much reason to add this comfort-food-type exhibit to your arts agenda. What's not to love, after all, about a Lionel train set looping around on tracks leading from a magnificently scaled down Grand Central Station to the North Pole? Admission is free, moreover, and the show is open seven days a week. All aboard!
You can follow Paul D'Agostino on Twitter @postuccio