A LITTLE BIT OF MEXICO CITY IN MIDTOWN
The mural at Cuchara restaurant in Midtown by Cecilia Beaven is fun, it’s a cartoon. Easy to take in. Lots to see. It’s family in the center around a table and the city surrounding. Black lines on white canvas. Small narratives. Glimpses. A kiss in the rain, a bus load of people. Drop into their lives at a glance. It’s quick it’s easy. A perfect centerpiece for the restaurant. A perfect parallel. Here there are tables and at each table a different story. All the stories are happening independently, but right next to each other. The integrating factor is the food- great food, fresh food, Mexico City inspired. This is a family centered restaurant. Just like the mural. One sister painted the mural the other sister is the foodie. Mom sits at the counter. Very Friendly. Every one of your senses is taken into their trust- seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing-- The music is traditional. The musicians will tell you that they are the Young and the Restless, but really the band is quite nameless, but please hire them! in a chorus they insist in their call to me. They will come to play for you, too! The octogenarian will tell you that he is single and he has a car so he can get married. They play like that all day. And the music is great, too! The old with the young at every table. Youthful fun engaging and taking everyone along. There’s a place for the young and the young at heart-- and the designers to dream.
Pop art happened in the sixties. This is when cartoons became high art. Names like Tom Wesselman, James Rosenquist, Red Grooms, and Warhol took the cartoon form to serious places. Low art became high art bought up by art collectors, museums and finding a chapter in art history. Enter Keith Haring and Basquiat. I must mention Manga and Street Art graffiti raging with fans. Cecilia Beaven brings the Aztec monster of Cipactili, the story of creation to the mix.
This form of compressed narrative in line drawing does have its roots. All delight in line quality and depth in the narrative or the stark symbols and metaphors. But this artist, Cecilia Beaven, has given the simplified drawing an important context here. Narrative always has it’s context to make it meaningful-- Family. Territory. You feel the richness of culture with the lightness of being. The windows wrapped around the room to enchant space with the light and the resolved but not finished white paper papier mache. White Canvas and white light embrace the black lines in play, anchored by the blue green of a tree or two or three. The crowds of people surrounding the black pavements drawn and placed in perfect proportion and composition sings the spirit of Mexico City. With another mural anchored on the ceiling calling you to look up to a crowd painted there that will look down to celebrate you in the crowd below. Shout Salud! And my husband was told that they do have the best tequila in Mexico City right there.
Cecilia Beaven created another mural at the border of Mexico and the United States.
This mural is about the emigration of those who went through the door from Mexico to the US to find a better life, those who were sent back after finding that path to America and those who died along the way. She tells me that she engages social problems through a personal lens. Her border is a door that is not available for everyone, she can go through that door to the US and Mexico comfortably and she has empathy for those who can not. In Mexico there is a contrast between the worlds of poor and rich, she travels between those worlds, easily, and recognizes her perspective and expresses her reality with the widest focus. The layers of her mural at the restaurant begin at the easy and friendly level-fun for people of all ages, joyful with colors and cartoons. There are other levels, if we look closely, Mexico City as a place to be trapped by chaos and endless density-- there is a bright and a dark side.
The content of each of her paintings goes to the center of her and comes from the center of her. In the Tijuana mural thick lines that make bars and doors are the signifiers and the symbols. The simplified lines are long from simplifying issues that we all, as citizens of the USA or Mexico, must wrap our thinking around for a humane world.
Each of her paintings embrace an idea, the clarity of lines becomes clarity of purpose-- be it the center of family and the land of Mexico City, with moments of lyricism and delights or the center that takes on the difficulties of social issues and what is painfully near, she doesn’t flinch. Her art is a circle.
This restaurant sets up a standard for us all in great design: unity with constant variation. Art work all around in two dimensions and three on the shelves, on the wall and on the ceiling—inside and outside-- all vital. And levels of easy and then more difficult. All integrated and whole by the vision of an artist with clear sight.
And as my husband said upon leaving the first time: this is a place that you want to take your guests. And he didn’t even have the tequila.