Oh, Snap!

August 14, 2009

Yes, the Art Institute of Chicago Renzo Piano’s Modern Wing has been getting all the buzz, and for good reasons: Increasing the gallery space by a massive third? Check! Introducing state-of-the-art technology to maximize the use of light while protecting the artwork of direct sunlight? Check! Showcasing formerly stored masterpieces that position the Art Institute alongside some of the world’s most formidable collections? Check!

But what about the museum goers?

The Art Institute, in collaboration with NBC5, sponsored the Modern Wing Photo Contest to encourage photographers to explore an aspect (both on literal and figuratively plains) that has been missing from the media hoopla and the check-out-this-angle photographs put forth by the AIC’s own talented team of photographers.

The winner was Jungyul Yu, whose work truly captured the spark generated by the interaction of the visitors with the museum’s architecture. Eschewing the rather tempting trap of architectural visualization for a more organic and energetic approach of capturing the hustle-and-bustle of the new wing, Yu has produced an image that is simply and truly refreshing.

Congratulation to Yu and the three runner-ups: Kayo Takasugi, Ricardo Phillips, and Elliot Mandel.

Love it or hate it? Cast your vote on their Facebook page.

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The winning image by Jungyul Yu

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Excuse me, Sir, but do you have LGBT Change?

August 14, 2009

One of the greatest things about the Chicago LGBT community, as we all know, is the number of take-your-shirt-off-worthy events it churns out during the summer, the last major one of which is Market Days. However, not one to fall to complacency (or the temptation to start consuming carbs, of course), the LGBT community has put out one more Summer extravaganza for all to enjoy.

“Be The Change”, an event providing platform for LGBT and LGBT-friendly peeps to network, socialize, innovate and, yes, enjoy a drink or two will take place at Spin, on Saturday August 15th, from 6pm-10pm.

Put together by LGBT Change and Club 1948, two non-for-profit organizations promoting tolerance, love, and acceptance across all walks of life, the event will be marked by a live power-swing band performance from Ever So Klever, a free drink (need we say more?), goodie bags (not a metaphor), nibbles (open to interpretation), but best of all–representation from 12 additional Chicago-based non-for-profit organizations.

Cover charge will be $10, and all proceeds will go to local non-for-profits. With that much energy, flare and swing, you might find yourself having too much fun to notice that your shirt is long gone.

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FDM is OMG Good!

July 2, 2009

And now, a riddle: What’s white, sleek, bare, chic, and impossibly streamlined? No, it is not the new iconic Art Institute Modern Wing or the Zaha Hadid Millennium Park pavilion or even a new Prada Summer ‘09 must-have. Rather, it is FDM, the latest addition to Chicago’s exclusive posse of sexy restaurants.

Defying expectations without shunning traditions, chefs de cuisine Luis Montero and Angel Hernandez bring something that is sorely lacking in many of the famed Mexican restaurants in Chicago: originality.

Peeling off the stereotypical layers of orange walls, adobe brick arches and massive paintings of cacti commonly found in Mexican restaurants, the chefs, justifiably confident in their creations, left the color and energy to the dishes.

And hombre, que rico!

From the delicious marlin ceviche to the rich sopa Azteca and the delectable uchepos, the appetizers give patrons flavorful bundles that hint at the colors and spices that are to come in the next round.

The pollo al cacahuate spins an innovative take—a non-cream based peanut sauce seldom found in Mexican restaurants—on a familiar dish. The unique texture and flavor of the sauce is carefully calibrated to compliment—not overwhelm—the smoky, tender feel of the chicken.

Sauces play a major part in the menu, as Chefs Montero and Hernandez eschew the cliché moles and salsas in favor of creating something reflective of the wide variety of cuisines within Mexico. For example, the grilled mahi-mahi served over a bed of spinach, was topped with a creamy, ground walnut sauce, and studded with ruby red pomegranate seeds. The sweet and light flavor was a surprise, but a welcomed one at that. It was nice to see (and taste) stale traditions replaced with something refreshingly new.

And the desserts, oh, the desserts. Let’s just say that anyone who can keep their tongues from licking the bottom of the chocolate maya custard with chile ancho-orange sauce, or the coconut flan drizzled with fresh fruit, can congratulate themselves for doing the impossible.

Be sure to compliment your food with the trademark rustica drink, and if wine is more your thing, then by all means pore over a wine list extensive enough to satiate event the pickiest of connoisseurs. Abundance, it seems, is a Mexican tradition always worth keeping.

FDM is at 3908 N. Lincoln Avenue. For a full menu list, please click here. For reservations, please click here.

Foreign Correspondence

June 25, 2009

The age-old adage “Behind Every Great Man Is a Great Woman” is just that—old. The key to success in any relationship, we now know, is support, regardless of whether the person behind us is wearing a pair of pants, a skirt or something by Marc Jacobs. Love is love; its origin should not matter, and the more—the merrier.

This is why Tel-Aviv’s show of love and support for Chicago’s LGBT community in the form of a beach-themed float is an empowering addition. The city that Time magazine has termed “the Mediterranean’s most unlikely capital of cool” becomes the first international city ever to publicly endorse Chicago’s LGBT community at the Gay Pride Parade.

Earlier this year, Tel Aviv was honored with the task of hosting next year’s International Gay Tourism Convention. By doing so, the city reinforces its status as one of the world’s most fun and easygoing gay capitals, alongside London, Rio, Berlin, New York and Amsterdam.

Helping Tel-Aviv spread the love for Chicago’s LGBT community is Club 1948, a local non-for-profit whose mission is to celebrate Israel’s arts and culture. Reflecting the organization’s emphasis on fun and diversity, twenty swimsuit-clad men and women, from different backgrounds and of different ages, will be dancing to the live tunes of American, European and Israeli music.

In a time that gay marriage is a hot topic and opinions on gay rights are polarizing the country, it is nice to see that a foreign friend has got your back. This one never gets old.

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Cavorting on the Tel Aviv beach

Review: The Proposal

June 17, 2009

The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, could be quite simply classified as your typical romantic comedy, only with one major twist: it has none. Nope. Not a single one. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know everything that you will need to know about the movie. Only, well, not really.

Okay, so the ingredients are pretty typical: man and woman meet, fall in hate (deep, deep hate), make each other miserable, go through a series of oh-no-you-didn’t moments in which they engage in circus-silly acts that will surely generate laughs from anyone who’s in a relatively calm state of mind and would not mind sinking into the fluffy plotline. Then—crisis! And wouldn’t you know it—they end up falling in love after all.

Aww.

(Anyone who’s seen the trailer who would still dare to accuse me of ruining the movie for them has either admitted to being a recent Amish dropout or having the world’s least complicated brain.)

So is the movie worth watching? For sure. The movie does not purport to change lives or revolutionize a concept that has been explored under every possible lens. However, what the movie does (and quite well) is bring out what we love the most about romantic comedies: believable chemistry and quirky sidekicks (a special shout-out to Oscar Nuñez.)

Bullock, despite her resistance, shines best in this genre. She is enjoyable to watch and her timing is perfect. Reynolds is as much fun to watch (all of him, ahem), and pleasantly surprises with his comedic skills, and his abs.

The Proposal might be a tad too sugary sweet sometimes, and you might even walk away with a minor toothache. But just like any other wedding cake, this one—whether you admit it or not—ultimately hits the spot, just as you’d expected.

The Proposal comes out Friday, June 19th.

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Sizing Up Minibar with Perez Hilton

June 15, 2009

In order to be anybody who’s anybody (or is it anybody who is somebody? somebody’s anybody? nobody’s everybody? who cares, you get the gist), a true Chicagoanista must comply with the memo to prove their commitment to style. The first requirement, of course, is spending at least half their salary on a pair of shoes. The second, naturally, is making sure to have their picture taken on at least one yacht/boat/rhapsody party at some point during the summer. And the last, obviously, is being seen walking into the swankiest place in town, Minibar.

Do not let the name fool you, though, since Minibar has more than tripled in size since it first opened over three years ago. The newest expansion to the venue entails an uber-sleek bar with a glass gallery overlooking another sexy, cavernous bar, accessible by a floating staircase. Giant LED screens cast a lush glow over a newly furbished velvet-rope lounge, replete with croc-skin ottomans and tables. And just to prove that every single angle was meticulously integrated into the design, the better-than-Sci-Fi ceiling will leave you gasping in awe.

Furthermore, co-owners Stu Zirin and John Dalton made sure that Minibar would not be just another pretty face. To keep things happening, Sunday nights will be themed-nights, Wednesday nights will have drink-for-single-penny hour, Thursdays will be reserved for extra special occasions, and Fridays will be hosted by the grand empresario of beats DJ Shawn Edwards. With a drinks menu that covers the best of bubblies, cocktails and martinis, chances are you will want to stop by every other day as well.

We caught up with the one and only, Mr. Perez Hilton, who showed up on Friday night to scope out Chicago’s hottest venue. As predicted, the self-professed Queen of Media sprinkled nothing but the best superlatives on Minibar–and its stylin’ patrons. Looks like someone got the memo.

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Hot Fun in the Chicago Summertime!

June 4, 2009

Over the course of civilization, different cultures have contributed a famous saying that has become emblematic of their respective philosophy. The Chinese say, “An ant may well destroy a whole dam”; the French say, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth”; and the British say, “Toothpaste is only for the weaklings.”

However, most important of all, the millennia-strong superior culture of the Chicagoites (that’s us!) live by the famous saying “Screw this, it’s finally Summer!!!”

So ladies, prepare to get your chic on at this year’s Summer Solstice Beauty at RED 7 Salon next Thursday, June 11th, starting at 6pm.

The feast of glamor, beauty and fashion, assembled by the Chicago’s very own (and nationally featured) Chicago Girly Girl, will feature the unveiling of summer lines by Kate Boggiano, Lara Miller and Serpico. The shopaholics in the house will find comfort in the bagillion retailers who will feature clothes, accessories, and cosmetics to help you welcome the Summer of 2009.

So make your Chicagoite ancestors proud and be sure to sip on Mad Housewife wine, nibble on finger-licking-good treats from Fig Catering and get pampered with Red 7’s beauty treatments. Let the rest deal with their cutthroat ants and stubborn ponies.

Tickets are $20 and include a goody bag, so don’t forget to RSVP by calling Kristin Huey at 312-217-4111 or email kristin@ChicagoGirlyGirl.com.

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Review: Jason Hackenwerth at AXA Art/Artopolis

April 28, 2009

By now, you’ve heard some variation of this joke: A young ingenue mingles with a group of big-wigs at a social luncheon of sorts on the Upper East Side. At some point she is asked by some of the attendees if she is in a relationship. She truthfully responds that yes, she is. Curious, the attendees ask her what her boyfriend does for a living. She responds that he is an artist. “Really?”, the guests lean forward and smile, “at what restaurant?”

Yep, artists have it hard, really hard, and it’s not surprising that many (many? more like most) have to resort to cleaning houses, busing tables, bartending, and if Illinois’s history is anything to go by–run for governor, until they make it in the field. But pulling balloon tricks as a clown in Times Square?

That was the reality for Jason Hackenwerth, who, after nearly 20 years of shaping balloons into poodles and kittens, has turned his skill into an art form, and a most exceptional one at that.

Using nothing but his lungs to inflate his large-scale installations, Jackenwerth turns the balloons into majestic compositions that are part Venus Fly Trap and part underwater amoeba. Despite their grandiose size, the pieces are light as a feather, intimidating as they are mesmerizing.

The simultaneous occupation of the pieces as objects of desire and and subjects of fear allows them to circumvent an immediately recognizable space. They are as organic as they are lifeless, soothing as they are unnerving.

Hackenwerth cleverly taps into a style popularized by Yayoi Kusama and Louise Bourgeois in the 1960’s, producing artwork that refers to the body (or “a” body) without any didactic references to a body part. You want to caress the installations as much as puncture them. However, as opposed to Kusama or Bourgeois, Hackenwerth’s works are also ephemeral by nature, highighting their fragility and heightening their dramatic effect without going over the top.

Simply put, Hackenwerth’s work at AXA Art should be one of the best at this year’s Artopolis. Nothing to clown about here.

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Artist Jason Hackenwerth

Moi? Sarcastic? Never!

April 22, 2009

The examples are endless: “Me? A snob? As in possessing a discerning palate that differentiates me from the rest of the riff-raff? Never.” Or how about “Governor Blago? Yes, love the guy. Upright, humble, simple, altruistic, wish he’d never left the political arena.” And of course, “Winter in Chicago? A total breeze, you barely notice it. Your cuteness will not be compromised, your skin will not turn green, and your favorite pair of boots will not be !@#$# ruined.” We’re just sayin’.

The theme, of course, is sarcasm, and only in Chicago will you find an exceptionally talented group of comedians dedicated to spreading awareness of the twisted humor’s appeal.

The Sarcastic Squad, founded by Adam Guerino, also features laugh-out-loud comedians Eric Lutz, Beth Sterling, Cameron Esposito, Mike Lee in addition to others on a locan and national caliber.

Opening its third season at Berlin this Friday, April 24th, at 10pm and running until May 29th, the show promises a medley of stand-up, sketch, improv (musical and otherwise) spread over two stages, with audience members in between.

Admission is $5, and includes DJ Greg Haus “Cosmix” spin, the electronica dance party known throughout Lakeview for bringing down the house. And no, we know what you’re thinking, this time we’re not being sarcastic, if you can believe it.

It’s Been a Lange Time Coming

April 4, 2009

For those of us who have lived here long enough to call Chicago a home, the idea of having four seasons sounds flat out silly. After all, in Chicago it’s all some derivative of winter, with the season stretching from June to August generally referred to as “It’s-Still-Not-Warm-Enough”, or, in some circles, “Next-Summer-I’m-Moving-To-L.A.” Admit it.

That said, instead of waiting for the warm weather to come, which may be in the next 2-3 years (no, not months, years), it’s time to think about creative ways to stay indoors without getting cabin fever.

The solution? The art exhibition this Saturday, April 4th by Karen Jo Lange. Titled, “Compartmentalized”, the exhibition will take place in five different areas at the John Calkins’ Showcase Home (1504 Byron St) from 6-10. Thirty pieces in total will be on display in the vacant single family home, and the artist, of course, will be available to discuss her oeuvre.

Considering that this will provide you with the comfort of being in someone else’s home, enjoying a great art show, AND keeping it light on your wallet, finding a better deal would be next to impossible. Unless, of course, you’re moving to L.A. this weekend.

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Karen Jo Lange, Untitled, 2008