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New York Exhibit Mixes Italian Art and Food - 2002-11-13

Italians are world-renowned for their art and their cuisine, so why not put the two together, says a humanitarian organization that promotes communication between social groups. An exhibition at New York University's Casa Italiana, some artists have come up with rather interesting ways to transform a basic kitchen item into a piece of art.

The pasta strainer or colander, what Italians call a colapasta, is a must in every Italian and Italian-American kitchen. But now the strainer, in a completely different venue, is catching more than just the Italian noodle. One representation of the colapasta caught Jacomo Greco's eye.

"It appeals to me because it makes me wonder what the creative process is," Mr. Greco said. "I'm not quite sure if it is glass or if it is plastic, and it's kind of erotic."

The pieces in the exhibit entitled "Arte da Mangiare," or the Art of Eating, do stir the imagination, but they also work up an appetite. One colapasta is actually made of dried pasta. Artist Alessandra Ceriani calls her work "Con la pasta" or "with pasta," playing on the Italian word for the kitchen device.

Art critic and consultant for the show, Chiara Carfi, says she is interested in seeing American reaction.

"We wanted to open it to a new world and see how the American audience reacted to this crazy event and see how American artists were going to react," Ms. Carfi said.

New Yorker Susan Lobel's reaction included her own interpretation of what the work could be.

"I like the piece that is a small strainer with the small strings, and it looks like a little urn at the bottom. It looks like some sort of Mexican fire something," Ms. Lobel said.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Milan-based non-profit humanitarian group, Fondazione Umanitaria.

Casa Italiana Director Stefano Alberti says the group promotes educational programs that link art, food and nature, especially for children.

"They have educational farms and on these farms they are setting up educational projects so that kids living in cities have a chance to see animals and that the products are really made by the animals, the milk is done by cows and not in boxes at supermarkets," Mr. Alberti said.

The show is running in conjunction with a series of events, including pairing American artists and chefs together at top New York City restaurants to create signature dishes, tastings of Italian products at the United Nations, and viewings of chocolate sculptures at the annual New York Chocolate Show.

Mr. Alberti says the 32 pieces of art at the Casa Italiana have turned the place into a surreal kitchen. Last year the show made its American debut at a New York restaurant using the theme of the funnel, and next year organizers plan to showcase frozen food products as art. With luck, that show won't take place during the hot and humid New York summer.