Friday, January 31, 2014

Ferran Adrià—Revolutionary Alchemist

Ferran Adrià Plating Diagram, ca. 2000-2004. Colored pen on graph paper
Courtesy of elBullifoundation
There's some unavoidable deflation upon entering the Drawing Center's Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity exhibition, because after all, reading about food can't compare with eating it, even if you're talking about some of the most conceptual edibles ever made. But once you get past that, there's much to glean from this show of notes and sketches about the revolutionary Spanish chef's theories and inventions that helped him to create nearly 1900 new dishes. Not only does it draw attention to the food itself, but the craft of plating—combinations of flavors, as well as sculptural and graphic composition.

The works on view, through February 28, range widely: plating diagrams (above), genomic theory diagrams about the history of cuisine, a vitrine of colorful plasticine sculptures showing the shapes of food presentation, tools adapted for elBulli's "molecular gastronomy." Large photographic murals of the kitchen and interior of the now-closed elBulli create an interior room which houses several panels of drawings (the lowest of which are difficult to see unless you're a mouse). If some of the theory seems a bit pretentious, consider what it must have taken to craft "quinoa helada de foie-gras de pato con consomé." And there is little fussiness about many of the drawings, done in a naive style with colored pens, or written in what could've been haste or fervor. 

Ferran Adrià, courtesy elBullifoundation
Supporting the main exhibition, in the downstairs lab, the film 1846 screens, which shows every dish created at elBulli, as well as a film about Adrià's participation in Documenta. There are references to Bullipedia, a nebulous database of practice and theory currently in process. And on the lighter side, in the stairwell hangs a portrait of the chef by Simpson's creator Matt Groening. And if you didn't catch the film documentation of the food, a set of volumes with glamour shots of the restaurant's meals sits in the lobby. After that, you'll surely be primed to wolf down a liquid olive or vegetable foam.  

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