Much food for thought at BRAC show

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Consider the coffee cup. Few things, it seems, could be more utilitarian. Most are designed to contain the maximum volume of liquid in the least amount of space, and the purpose of the beverage, of course, is to make your more efficient at whatever it is you are doing between sips.

But what about the way we lift our beverages, that simple gesture of carrying drink from table or cup holder to mouth? What if some rascal — or, say, an accomplished artist and scholar of design — crafted a cup that required you to contort limb or lip just to quaff your coveted caffeine?

That is what Emilie Baltz has done with a series of small, white coffee cups on display at the Bronx River Art Center’s current exhibit. The pieces’ jagged contours require one to hold them from the bottom or from other strange angles. Like the other displays in “The Food Design Show,” which winds down this weekend, Ms. Baltz’s goal appears to be making you rethink the most basic components of how we eat.

“But is it art?”

An engaging speaker addressed the issue head-on during a recent evening at the center’s temporary gallery, located at 305 E. 104th St. in the south Bronx. Brett Littman focused exclusively on the works anchoring the show, a lengthy slideshow of dishes prepared at the legendary restaurant elBulli along with drawings and schemes by the culinary innovator, Ferran Adrià, behind the establishment.

Mr. Littman previously organized a much-publicized exhibit culling the massive archive of pictograms, plate drawings and other designs that the groundbreaking chef used to create the 1,846 unique dishes he served until closing elBulli in Catalonia, Spain in 2011. A sample of Mr. Littman’s “Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity” is at the Bronx River Art Center’s current show.

On Jan. 22, the curator described his once-in-a-lifetime experience of dining at elBulli and expounded on Mr. Adrià’s creative process while the reel of fantastical dishes played on a projection screen and listeners’ mouths might have watered.

Throughout the talk, Mr. Littman discussed objections to showing a chef’s drawings at an art gallery.

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