Food for thought: chef Vinny Dotolo brings together two worlds at M+B, LA

Food for thought: chef Vinny Dotolo brings together two worlds at M+B, LA

When M+B’s Sonny Ruscha Granade approached chef Vinny Dotolo three months ago about curating a summer group show with a food theme, the James Beard Award-winner jumped at the opportunity. Dotolo has been collecting art for years; while he and his chef partner, Jon Shook, have long been integrating works by local artists into their restaurants. To wit: LA potter Shio Kusaka made the sconces for their West Hollywood pizza joint Jon & Vinny’s and there is unique dishware by local ceramic star Adam Silverman in use at the culinary hot spot, Trois Mec. 

‘I love that Adam is involved. Every year he’s adding and changing stuff,’ says Dotolo. ‘The plates are intense and I think people don’t always notice it, a lot of people don’t even see the drawing.’

While the food is the main event at each of his restaurants, the art took centre stage at the packed opening for Dotolo’s curatorial debut at M+B, ’Please Have Enough Acid in the Dish!’. What began with works by Kusaka and Wood – a petite watermelon pot and a small drawing of fruits and vegetables, respectively – grew into a massive multimedia affair with paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, interactive drinks, and video by upstart and august LA talents. These include paintings by Alex Becerra, Joshua Nathanson, and Louise Bonnet as well as Ed Ruscha screenprints, a 2010 Charles Ray photograph of a quarter pounder drained of colour, and a pair of 2014 bacchanalian still-lifes against hypnotic, gridded backdrops from Charlie White. 

‘There’s so many different approaches here and 90 per cent of the work was made for the show,’ says Dotolo, who installed the wall works in a dense, salon-style with a forest of columns and plinths supporting the sculptures. ‘It’s like the perfect summer group show and it really represents Los Angeles because it’s all LA artists, which is one of the most important things.’

Other highlights include Awol Erizku’s Leango, a saturated photo of a sculptural collage made from foodstuffs against a lipstick red background, Matthew Brandt’s Two Big Macs sculpture of the titular sandwich trapped inside plexiglas boxes, and the interactive installation Flavor from Sean Raspet invited visitors to drink and rate his artificially flavored waters. Ana Prvacki’s This is not an olive, a martini-making performance substituting kumquats from Ed Ruscha’s studio orchard for the standard bar accoutrement, had people lining up for the potent cocktails.

Dotolo explains that the title for the show comes from a collage of his own handwritten kitchen notes, utilised for the front and back covers of an accompanying zine featuring recipes by the artists. 

‘Most people might read that as a reference to LSD, but in kitchen terms it refers to something – whether it’s lemon, vinegar, a pickle – that brings that acid tone to the dish. We’ve been known to apply heavy acid and a lot of fat to our dishes,’ he says. ‘The gallery thought that was really interesting and it’s ironic they picked up on it without working in my kitchens because it’s something I’ve always stressing to everyone. It’s what keeps you wanting to keep eating.’

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