Creative Fire: MOCA Pairs a Chef and an Artist for Two Exhibitions on Innovation 

This past weekend, MOCA debuted its fall exhibitions, Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity and Kirk Mangus: Things Love. Initially, the idea of pairing an internationally renowned master chef and a local ceramics professor might seem odd. However, upon further examination, the two complement each other quite nicely.

Chef Ferran Adrià ran elBulli in Roses, Catalonia, Spain for decades. Under his leadership, elBulli created more than 1,800 unique, innovative culinary dishes. The restaurant was only open half of the year. During the other six months, the chef and his creative team would travel to a laboratory in Barcelona to create new dishes. Adrià's creativity is legendary in the culinary world.

Notes on Creativity was first exhibited at the Drawing Center in New York, and MOCA's exhibition is nearly identical to that initial show. Drawing center curator Brett Littman visited elBulli in 2010, just one year before the restaurant closed its doors for the final time. The experience featured a tasting menu of more than 35 unique courses. Littman was so impressed by the dinner, which lasted some seven hours — from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. — that he returned to visit with Adrià multiple times, learning about his creative process.

The exhibition is a glimpse into the psyche of Adrià. The walls of the gallery are filled with sketches, pictograms and enlarged diagrams — including a map of the creative process and the history of culinary arts. The best description for the show might just be cerebral. In the center of the gallery, visitors enter an inner room wallpapered with photographs of the real shelves at Adrià's laboratory. Inside this inner room, a number of cases display drawings, notes and photographs from various elBulli projects.

Notes on Creativity isn't just an exhibition of drawings and sketches by a master chef: It's a celebration of a visual thinker with a deep interest in creative process, visualization and innovation. With our region's strong culinary scene, the exhibition is a perfect fit for Cleveland. To engage the community, MOCA is planning numerous events to more deeply explore the relationship between culinary and visual arts.

Starting this Thursday, MOCA hosts a weekly Culinary Innovation series featuring local chefs Brandon Chrostowski of Edwins (Oct. 2) Steve Schimoler of Crop Bistro & Bar (Oct. 16.) and Doug Katz of Fire Food & Drink (Oct. 30). At 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16, Adrià himself will speak at MOCA about his work. Drinks aren't left out of the equation either. On Dec. 11, the museum presents The Cocktail: Origins and Evolution, featuring a panel discussion of experts and tasting opportunity — featuring MOCA's award-winning cocktail inspired by Notes on Creativity.

"The exhibition recognizes the conception of gastronomy as an art form in itself, collecting sketches, photographs and ultimately ideas that translate an internationally recognized chef into an innovative artist and creative figure," says MOCA executive director Jill Snyder.

Kirk Mangus' Things Love shares MOCA's main gallery space with Notes on Creativity. The shows share a common focus on process, innovation and visualization. Further, both Mangus' and Adrià's work is elemental, food and clay being the first objects humans exposed to fire.

Mangus (1952-2013) served as the head of the ceramics department at Kent State University from 1985 until his death. A multidisciplinary artist, Mangus' exhibition includes an eclectic array of ceramics, ink drawings and watercolors. His influences included comic books, Japanese woodblock prints, modernist abstraction, prehistoric animal figures, as well as the ceramic traditions of Asia, Europe and Meso-America.

"Kirk Mangus was a profoundly dedicated artist and teacher, and his influence extends throughout the region and beyond," explains curator Rose Bouthillier. "He organized his life around art, and was always making, always seeking out new knowledge. His incredibly diverse body of work expresses a philosophy and approach to life: an open, impassioned way of thinking about and experiencing the world."

The exhibition ranges from small sketches and sculptures to massive drawings and vessels. Mangus' work is best known for its "playful gesture, roughhewn forms and experimental glazing," as MOCA notes. Common themes and characters reoccur throughout the show. Glazing techniques range from traditional to resembling abstract expressionism. Mangus sought to escape the limitations of the minimalism art of his day, because he felt more "human" art was more full of life.

Like Adrià, Mangus was interested in and involved with every aspect of his process. He dug for local clay, built his own wood-fired kilns and cut his own logs. Both men's creative processes are the real subjects of this exhibition.

Both shows run through Jan. 18, 2015. General admission is $8; less for seniors, student with valid ID, members and children under 6. Find more info at mocacleveland.org.


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