Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life

28May09

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Mr. Meléndez Goes to Washington 

By Suzanne Lenzer

There are times when being able to teleport yourself somewhere would be just fabulous. Those days when you crave a Salad Lyonnaise from that amazing little bistro in Paris, and you’d certainly drop in if only you weren’t in California. Or times when you could really do with a couple hours on a tropical beach if you weren’t stuck in an office building in midtown Manhattan.

Or days like today, when I could use a couple hours wandering the halls of the National Gallery of Art in Washington to take in the Luis Meléndez exhibit.

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Having admitted I haven’t seen the exhibit, I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on it, but as an admirer of his work, I think I’m safe saying this: if you happen to be in DC and have a free afternoon, it’s probably worth a visit.

Meléndez, an 18th century Spanish still-life painter isn’t as well known as his contemporary Goya, but his work is riveting in its own right, especially if like me you’re fond of food arrangements. Stand and gaze at the way he captures light on the side of a glass or the mutating color on the curve of a fig and you’ll swear you can feel the glass on your lips, taste the rich fruit on your tongue. Idle on a round of cheese and I promise, your nose will perk up and you’ll wonder if, by chance, you just caught a whiff of something earthy and aged.

From what I can tell all of the work is enchanting. But of specific interest may be the pieces created as part of a series Meléndez was commissioned to paint for the future King Charles IV. These works were intended to depict “the four Seasons of the Year… with the aim of composing an amusing cabinet with every species of food produced by the Spanish climate.” Seville oranges, olives, figs, crusty bread, and carafes of claret––what could make for more lovely inspiration?

So if you’re in DC, consider stopping in to enjoy a feast for the eyes. For those of us without access to a teleport, don’t fret. Mr. Meléndez is headed for LACMA, September 27 through January 3, 2010. Mark your calendars.

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