6.15.15 | Issue #18
I DON’T REALLY RECALL WHEN I FIRST STUMBLED OVER JAY BATLLE’S WORK, AND I DON’T REMEMBER WHY I LIKED IT.
ALL I KNOW IS THAT I DID, IMMEDIATELY.I spent the better part of an afternoon scrolling endlessly through his work on a spare Tumblr page dubbed, ‘Restaurant-Restaurant.’ For years, I had no idea who he was, and there was a certain pleasure in that. Some unknown industry insider out there somewhere was collecting restaurant stationary and bringing them to life with cheeky tableaus, splashy with color, a joyous depiction of the cherished angst of restaurant life. When I found myself on the phone, miraculously, with this mystery artist, I knew he was the real deal because all we talked about was food. There’s an exuberance to the work of a good doodler, and Batlle is often hailed as one of the best. In the art world—and take these assumptions with a grain of salt, since I have approximately zero experience or knowledge of the inner workings of that particular microcosm—he’s probably known for being a bit of a trickster. Anyone fascinated by the social commentary of eating out, of luxury and gluttony and money, would have to be. He likes putting on what he calls ‘food performances’ at some of his shows, cooking finger food in a corner while collectors mill about, oblivious to who he really is. It’s a little triumph. His art carries that invisible marking of an industry veteran; enjoyable to those who aren’t, and deeply hilarious to those who are. Below you’ll find a few examples of this work, paired with excerpts from a much longer conversation, one that zig-zagged all over the finer points of a meal and the insanity of life as a New York maître d’. “Tonight I’m really excited to steam vegetables, which is embarrassing,” he mentions in closing. Artists! They’re just like us!