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A trip into Jay Batlle’s studio makes one remember the greater joys of life: E A T I N G. Bunches of customized menus with doodles and canvases with used recipes on the backside feeds into the culture obsessed habits of cities such as New York, Paris, London.

A self proclaimed foodie, Jay is a resident in the Mana Residency program, and will also be featured in the upcoming Mana Exposition.

His current show, “Naked Ravioli,” which just opened this past week at Roza Azora gallery in Moscow,  featured the artist preparing ravioli nudi surrounded by his menu works. With Moscow currently under grim worldwide spotlight, the exhibition takes place during an inappropriately appropriate time of light-hearted decadence.

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Installation shot of “Naked Ravioli” at Roza Azora Gallery.

Mana: What is your experience with the food culture in Moscow? And how is it operating up given the current political turmoil?
JB:  So far it’s been great! I’ve tried a few restaurants and gleaned a group of beautiful menus in Moscow for future works. I was privileged enough to attend a Georgian feast at one of the best restaurants in Moscow on my second night here.  I can’t express how good and fresh the Georgian cuisine is, along with the live a capella music, and the consistent palette cleanse of vodka. This made for a night where I even danced.  The mood here is heavy, but the energy is very much like NYC, everyone is very sophisticated, along with the cuisine.

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“Squid In A Snap (Gramercy Tavern)” 2013 & “A Cake On The Bed (Dominique) 2013,” archival inkjet, ink, marker, and stickers on watercolor paper mounted on primed canvas with sac a jambon bag veil (recipe on verso)


Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 2.45.10 PM“Light On Heat (Casa Camara)” 2013 & “A Lovely Way To Salt A Dish (Mr. Chow) 2013,” archival inkjet, ink, marker, and stickers on watercolor paper mounted on primed canvas with sac a jambon bag veil (recipe on verso)

Mana: Will you be addressing the chaos in the exhibition?

JB:  I like the work and the food performances I create to have as much of a context as possible, but most of these things are out of my control, including politics. The only thing that surprised me was how many Russian artists came up to me at the opening to congratulate me and say it was a breath of fresh air. I thought this was very generous.

What do you say to the people who associate food obsession as gluttony? Do you pine for the values of the ancient Roman Empire? Or rather developing a slow food moment approach by showcasing good food?
 I feel sorry for people who don’t enjoy eating, it is really one of the best parts of reality in my opinion, I like slow and low, fast and furious, and even fasting from time to time.

When did you start your experimentation with meals as art? 
I take a lot from foodie culture and cooking, and I make food in galleries and museums around the world, but I don’t really use the food itself as my art. I’m much more interested in the structures of etiquette and approaches of cooking than the result or food itself, but this all started when I was in Paris about 14 years ago. I was debating my future path in life. I found the art world and being an artist in a gallery system very limited, so I worked in restaurants for a bit, and thought that this could be my art. But supposedly when I was just five years old I drew an apple like Matisse, I mean Cezanne.



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“Welcome Back Butter (Balthazar)” 2013, archival inkjet, ink, marker, and stickers on watercolor paper mounted on primed canvas with sac a jambon bag veil (recipe on verso)

Much of your work highlights the social aspect of dining out as well. With New York as epicenter for socializing in a dining scene, which are your favorite restaurants for socializing?
I really like Balthazar and Golden Unicorn in Chinatown, but I’ve got to keep the best ones secret.

Do you create your menu works while at the restaurant (as an active discovery) or a post restaurant memoir?
I tried at the beginning, actually at the Ritz bar in Paris, I drew on the napkins and it was too self conscious and postured for what I want out of this structure for making watercolors and ink doodles.  I would say I’m meta-discursive when comes to the actual art I produce.

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Georgian Restaurant Feast Moscow

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The Artist- Naked Ravioli Performance

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As an American artist, how do you think the European food culture differs from the United States? And is New York (through being a slightly more globalized epicenter) an exception? 

 I think one thing that I can notice right away, is the food and the restaurants in Europe are more direct in their approach and tend not to make so much fanfare around the cuisine. They let the meal do the talking.  I think New York is obviously one of the best places in the world to eat out, but what I love is old, slightly sad, empty restaurants with great waiters and white table cloths. I find these places outside of NYC more commonly, but Le Train Bleu in Bloomingdales has an amazing prix fixe for lunch with a glass of wine included and the waiters have these great jackets, which I hope to get one day…but I’m always surprised when I go to a new country. Last night in Moscow I had the best stewed goat and polenta I’ve ever had.

“Salmon Richly Spiced (La Grenouille)” & “Out To Play (17Hundred90)” 2013, archival inkjet, ink, marker, and stickers on watercolor paper mounted on primed canvas with sac a jambon bag veil (recipe on verso).

What have been your aesthetic inspirations as of late?
I’m interested in creating new surfaces with my stationery series. I’m dipping the enlarged menus in glue and rolling them on canvas to get a lot of creases and bumps to give a surface that you have to experience in person.

What is your process of working in the Mana Residency program?
I am creating a new series of huge stationery paintings and thinking about the edition that we are going to produce.  I feel very settled in at the residency and blown away by the whole place.

Have you explored Jersey cuisine?
Yes, I’m happy to say I’ve found a great Indian for lunch, an Irish butcher for bangers, and a Filipino store with amazing steamed pork buns.

What can we expect from your work at the upcoming Mana exposition?
I’m very excited to see my work at the glass house exhibition in May. Viewers can expect to see some of my bigger works there.  I don’t want to give away too much about the BBQ that I’m doing with Brett Littman from the Drawing Center. It’s called Slow and Low, so you can expect a lot of ribs…Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 2.46.07 PM