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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

Taking the mezcal out of the box

Tosba boxPuns and seasonality aside I really am stunned by the leaps in mezcal world design. Bottle shapes and label design have always expressed the awesome creativity seeping out of Mexico but now people are creating all sorts of other containers. This last trip to Oaxaca presented me with two: Hopefully this article will prompt still others. Rest assured I’m also working on a piece specifically about label and bottle design so send me your thoughts on those fronts as well. For now I just want to talk about a few boxes.

Wood boxes for alcohol have always been special. Read more

What are you fighting for? The ultimate Lucha Libre/Taquiza/Mezcal event!

What happens when you combine Lucha Libre, Tacos and Mezcal? We now have the answer – La Lucha de la Cocina! Mezcalistas is beyond excited to be working with La Cocina, one of the most amazing non profit organizations here in the Bay Area, and Pro Wrestling Revolution. This fundraising event will take place August 13th at Pier 70 in San Francisco. Read more

Who in the mezcal world has a show up in NY?

A Ron Cooper piece currently on display in NY.

A Ron Cooper piece currently on display in NY.

That would be Ron Cooper of course. He has a show up at Franklin Parrasch right now. According to Ron they’re a “continuation of 1965 light pieces.” If you’re interested in the subject dig into this book which was published along side the big Pacific Standard Time exhibits in and around LA in 2011 and 2012.

Stay tuned. He’ll have an additional show opening in Taos in May.

Photographing the miracle of mezcal

Mezcal Country, Real Minero, Oaxaca

Recently I discovered Anna Bruce‘s photography because she covers our favorite subject, the world of mezcal, with great aplomb. We chatted about her photos over email. The interview is below with minimal editing for clarity. You can find our more about her work and life on her web siteTumblrInstagram, FaceBook, and Twitter. Should you be fortunate enough to live in London you can see a selection of her mezcal photos at the Charlotte Street branch of Wahaca. She has also photographed a tremendous variety of subjects and brings great insight to all of them. Just take a look at her portfolio here.

How did you come to this project?

When I was younger my family had lodgers in the house. I was good friends with 2 Mexican girls who stayed with us for a while, and when I was 19 in 2008 I visited them in Mexico. On that trip I tried my first taste of Mezcal, and went to mezcalerias in DF. One of my friends had an idea about bringing a Mezcal bar to the UK, but at that time it was not possible due to importing laws/trade regulations.

A couple of years ago the first Mezcal bars opened in London. I was curious as to how this could be, and discovered that the mezcal industry was changing and new certifications meant that we could now get it in England. During my research I began to understand more about the artisinal process of making mezcal, and the controversy surrounding the regionalisation of mezcal and the certification. The more I read the more questions I had about how mezcal would change as it gained popularity outside Mexico.  I had been looking for a project that would get me back to Mexico, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I approached the Mexican embassy in London with my proposal to photograph the process of making mezcal; focusing on the fact that it was both a new Mexican import to the UK, and that the process may change as the product needs to reach a larger/broader audience. The embassy gave me a media scholarship to spend a month in Oaxaca photographing the process in July 2013.

Since then I have been back twice to exhibit a selection of the images in December, and for a further research trip in May, to photograph more distilleries in Oaxaca, as well as in Jalisco and Michoacan.

How did you meet the palenqueros that you photographed and where are their palenques located?

For my initial trip, my Mexican friends put me in touch with the brand owner of a mezcal called ‘el Mero mero,’ and a lot of the images from that time were taken at the distillery of don Justinos Garcia in San Dionisio, where that mezcal is made. He also took me to his fields near Santiago Matatlan where I photographed him harvesting espadin. During the trip I met others involved in the mezcal industry, mostly with the help of Hector Audiffred from Amores Mezal and photographed the Amores and Danzantes distilleries in Matatlan.

I was asked to accompany a writer for the trip in May, and he has contacts through importing speciality brands from Mexico to the UK. Brand distilleries we visited included Derrumbes Rey Campero, Real Minero, Alipus and Del Maguey. We visited a broad variety of distilleries making tequila, raicilla, and mezcal, in Jalisco, Michoacan, and Oaxaca. Michoacan was fascinating as it is a newly certified mezcal- the first in the region, (producing for Derrumbes). Until recently they have had to call their spirit ‘distillate of agave’.

When I went in 2013 I spent a long time looking at each step of the process focusing predominantly on Justino. I stayed at his house with his family, including his father and son- ( who had previously run the distillery, and who he will pass it on to). The more recent trip was a whirl wind, sometimes driving to see two or more distilleries in a day and stopping regularly to photograph fields and different varieties of agave growing wild at the side of the road.

What interests you most about the world of mezcal?

While I was in Oaxaca I got to meet a lot of the creative community. Speaking with them, as well as mezcal makers, it is fascinating to learn about the cultural history of mezcal, and how it is represented creatively (and perhaps informs creativity). I would like to make a further study into the relationship between mezcal and the arts in Oaxaca.

Have these photos appeared elsewhere?

A selection of photos from the first trip are on permanent display in the Charlotte Street branch of the restaurant Wahaca in London, Wahaca’s in house magazine also published an article about the work, and the Express newspaper covered the exhibition opening. An installation of 200 pictures was shown at Taller Espacio Alternativo in Oaxaca and subsequently at the London School of Economics as part of a week of lectures focusing on Mexico.

Any plans to return to Mexico for another series on the world of mezcal or something else?

I am returning to Mexico in July of 2014 to work with Puente, a charity working to reintroduce amaranthe into the Oaxaca area. This will be alongside working with and documenting an artist residency focusing on nutrition and ‘first foods’ in the area such as amaranthe and corn. Hopefully this residency will become an exchange, as we have found accommodation and work space to offer 5 Mexican artists in the uk.

I think there will be more mezcal related work in the future (I hope so).

Read about mezcal in style

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Why wear pajamas while reading Mezcalistas when you can wear our brand spanking new t-shirts instead? We have three prints in a multitude of colors. All are hand screen printed in the Mission and come in both male and female sizes. Not only will you look good, you’ll be a bona fide conversation starter. Lest we lay on the sales sauce overly thick, these things are the perfect holiday gift. Act now! Just go to our Etsy storefront.

Music+Art+Mezcal=Fun

A tremendous thanks to all of you who stopped by Sub-Mission Gallery this past Saturday for our Music.Art.Mezcal. extravaganza. It was a dream come true to organize an event like this. For me, I can’t imagine mezcal existing in a vacuum without music, art and food to accompany it. It’s personal for sure and goes back to that moment in time in 2003, in the panteon in Oaxaca, surrounded by Dia de los Muertos altars, banda musica, dancers and a bottle of mezcal being passed around.

Of course a huge thank you to the artists whose work adorned the walls: Calixto Robles, Joaquin Newman, Txutxo Perez, Lapiztola Stencil, Yescka, Lorena Zertuche, Viet Chévez and Knut Hildebrandt. All of the art is for sale, so if you see something in the below gallery that catches your fancy, let us know and we’ll connect you with the artist!

We were also blessed with delicious mole and empanadas from Soul Cocina and a mezcal mocha banana creme brulee from The Creme Brulee Man that was heaven on earth.

Max and I had a great time talking mezcal, sharing the stories (and tastes) of mezcal from Don Pedro Garcia, Reyna Sanchez (Reinita) and Mezcal Tosba.

Check out the great photos that hopefully capture the energy of the night. There is something potent and magical about the combination of food, art, music and mezcal. We are hoping this is the first of more – and in fact, plans are underway for another extravaganza at the end of July.

Again, thanks for such a fun night!

Art by Yescka

Art by Yescka

Photos by Knut Hildebrandt

Photos by Knut Hildebrandt

Los Magueyes by Lorena Zertuche

Los Magueyes by Lorena Zertuche

Photos by Viet Chévez

Photos by Viet Chévez

Lapiztola Stencil

Lapiztola Stencil

El tigger by Lapiztola Stencil

El tigger by Lapiztola Stencil

Art by Joaquin Newman

Art by Joaquin Newman

 

Max talking mezcal

Max talking mezcal

happy attendee

happy attendee

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Admiring the art

Admiring the art

Txutxo Perez

Txutxo Perez

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Food by Soul Cocina

Food by Soul Cocina

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Mezcal Tosba

Mezcal Tosba

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Lorena Zertuche and her wall of Los Magueyes

Lorena Zertuche and her wall of Los Magueyes

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DJ Ricardo Ibarra of Radio Indigena spinning tunes

DJ Ricardo Ibarra of Radio Indigena spinning tunes

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Yescka and friends

Yescka and friends

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Art by Txutxo Perez

Art by Txutxo Perez

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Art by Txutxo Perez

Art by Txutxo Perez

Stencil by Lapiztola Stencil

Stencil by Lapiztola Stencil

Mezcal photo wall by Knut Hildebrandt

Mezcal photo wall by Knut Hildebrandt

T-shirts by Yescka

T-shirts by Yescka

Mezcales Don Pedro y Reinita

Mezcales Don Pedro y Reinita

Artist Calixto Robles and his daughter

Artist Calixto Robles and his daughter

Jaguar y Magueyes by Calixto Robles

Jaguar y Magueyes by Calixto Robles

Art by Joaquin Newman

Art by Joaquin Newman

The patio at Sub-Mission

The patio at Sub-Mission

The chefs

The chefs

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Mexican murals and mezcal in LA: Does it get any better than this?

If you’re in LA Wednesday, March 14th RSVP for a great event at Guelaguetza where Susan will show her photos, help with a tasting and La Piztola will unveil a mural.

 

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A primer on visiting Oaxaca

I’ve been getting a lot of requests recently about what to do when visiting Oaxaca. I love being able to share my experiences because I want people to love Oaxaca as much as I do. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list – I barely scratch the surface.

Food

I first went to Oaxaca in 2003 because I’d heard it was beautiful and that the food was amazing. It did not disappoint and I was completely blown away by the street and market food stalls.  Because I am an adventurous eater, and have no desire to suffer consequences from my food choices, I have developed a set of informal dietary rules when traveling in Mexico:

  • Plain yogurt with banana and honey in the morning.
  • Plenty of lime and chili through out the day.  They are common condiments, use them because they make things taste better and there’s some evidence that they may help stave off digestive distress.
  • At least one mezcal every night.
  • If it smells bad (as in rotten) don’t eat it.
  • If it has a peel on it, or is fruit on the street, squeeze lime over it.
  • If you can’t see a water source, don’t eat or drink it.
  • And of course, keep some Pepto Bismol on hand, or, charcoal tablets. It is more for psychological purposes than actual need.

If I could spend my days just perusing the markets in Oaxaca I would. They are chaotic and colorful and odiferous and gorgeous.

Abastos is the main market in the city of Oaxaca.  Go on Tuesdays since there is lots of local produce on the perimeter. In general, buy from the ladies on the floor or the ones without permanent stalls – this will be the most local, seasonal and fresh stuff. Abastos is huge and sprawling and totally overwhelming, and even more so on Saturday, the main market day. Eat at the market stalls – the food is good and it is a chance to try things you never would (like chapulines, the roasted grasshoppers.) Be aware of pick-pockets. It is in a semi crappy part of town so don’t go after dark.

Benito Juarez/20 de Noviembre is the downtown market. Any day is a good day there, and a visit to the carniceria is a must do experience. It’s smoky and the women behind the counters will vie for your attention.  Just pick one and go with it.  First, pick your meat: There is generally the local small chorizo sausages which are no where near as spicy as those found in a standard taqueria in the United Space, a spiced carne asada and a few other things.  Second, pick your sides.  You can choose from salsas, onions, peppers, avocado, radishes, cucumber and nopales to name just a few. Then you grab a table and wait for your food. Did I mention, it is a must do. This exists in every market so just DO IT.

Other favorite markets include the town of Tlacolula on Sunday (see this article for more info) and Ocotlan on Friday. These markets are very local and indigenous and you will have a chance to hear the melodic language of Zapotec.

I am going to go out on a limb and actually name a favorite tlayuda stand  – the equivalent of naming your favorite burrito place in San Francisco. It is located on the corner of Bustamante and Arteaga, just southeast of the Zocolo. La Señora sets up at about 6 every night and goes till midnight. Her lard is divine, her beans are transporting, the hot chocolate amazing and her Chile de Agua salsa is a flavor explosion.

Restaurants are everywhere in Oaxaca. All serve a comida corrida in the afternoon – usually 2-5pm. They are 3-4 courses and cost anywhere from 25-100 pesos depending on the restaurant.

Good restaurants on the higher end – La Biznaga (they also have a great mezcal selection – go for the house mezcals! Stay for the food), Los Danzantes (great for a drink cause it is really expensive, but really really beautiful), La Olla, El Origen and Zandunga (Isthmus style food – good and different.) These are in all the guidebooks. Biznaga is great for micheladas and appetizers. Other good places for comida include La Jicara, Maria Bonita, Gio, Comala. A really interesting place that focuses on heirloom varieties of maiz is Itanoni – it is in Colonia Reforma, a neighborhood just north of the centro. Fridays at El Llano park (also known as Benito Juarez) feature lots of good tacos, et all.

And for you coffee people that cannot live without your espressos and drips there is Lobo Azul. They roast in house with fantastic results. They also have pretty good breakfast stuff and awesome political poster art on the walls.

Night Life

Fun nightlife stuff – Cafe Central (Bar Central) has music, movies, art, dancing and a very mixed crowd. It is my top choice of a nightclub. FYI – Candela, the salsa club, is oft mentioned in the guide books and is total gringoland. Another place is El Olivo. They have a restaurant downstairs, and a bar/terrace upstairs.  Gozobi has a bar with a great roof terrace.  It is on the corner of Garcia Virgil and Allende.  I do not recommend eating there as the food is so-so and a little on the pricier side. The Zocolo is a great place to drink and watch the people go by. Any of the places are fine. Another good bigger bar is Txalaparta. My favorite dive bar is Cafe Mundial.

Mezcal

Now for mezcal. Casa de Mezcal can be fun, but know that they don’t have a big mezcal selection – in fact they only have four. If you want to do mezcal tastings here are three mezcalerias: Los Amantes, Mezcalateca, Cuish. They actually educate about mezcal in addition to doing the tastings. We have a list of the other mezcalerias here, with addresses and hours.  Just know that you’ll need a reservation at Mezcalateca and if you really get interested in the process ask to see if they will take you to the palenque, the place where they distill the mezcal.

Art

For you art people, here are my favorite museums – Museo de Textiles, Museo Alvaro Brava (photos), Cultural Center at Santo Domingo, CASA in San Agustin, and the stamp museum. There is so much good art to be had both inside museums and on the street.

Here are a couple of other links for info about the beaches of Oaxaca, art, and what to do if you only have 36 hours (the horror, the horror!) in Oaxaca. And feel free to email me if you have more questions.

The conceptual art of mezcal

A recent interview with Ron Cooper in Class Magazine reminded me that long before he got into mezcal he was a dynamic and important part of the Los Angeles art scene that has been exhaustively chronicled by the big Pacific Standard Time exhibits across LA this year.  There’s a bit more about it in this LA Times Magazine piece from 2009 but here are just a few great reminders of the fecundity of that scene and Cooper’s role in it:

A still from the original Ball Drop film

A recreation of the Ball Drop film for the the PST series.  John Sedlar’s second Los Angeles restaurant Playa celebrated the entire PST exhibit by creating a secret menu featuring a special Ball Drop cocktail for their PST menu in February.  I can attest that it was something special.

Just to round things out, a few examples of his work since 1970 and recent Cooper paintings.

None of this is exactly news but given that Jonathan Barbieri from Pierde Almas and Guillermo Olguín from Los Amantes are both painters perhaps there’s a trend here.  Who knows what other creative ventures by mezcal makers are out there.

 

Del Maguey artist Ken Price dead at 77

Ken Price

Ken Price, a key figure in the post-war LA art scene currently celebrated in the PST shows across Southern California died Friday.  His gallery work is amazing but his most seen work is also somewhat anonymous because he did the iconic illustrations for Ron Cooper’s Del Maguey mezcal line.  Read some nice appreciations of his life in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries.

Update: The Wall Street Journal also has a great obituary that just ran.