Judy Chicago @ New Museum

2023: Deeper Into Movies

Ritik Dholakia

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The year started out ideally — a breakfast of masala dosa in the garden of the Raas hotel in Jodhpur, under the Mehrangarh Fort. Having carved out a multi-week vacation for the first time in 10 years, Erin and I continued our trip in India, through Rajasthan and to my birth city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in India, as a child with my parents and on many wanderings as an adult. This western sojourn through Rajasthan’s princely decline & handcrafts brought forth some stranger, wondrous moments. Tie-dying on the roof of a family dwelling in Jodhpur. Wandering warrens of vintage textiles. Exploring an empty broom museum at the edge of the Thar Desert. A candlelit dinner for two in an abandoned stepwell in the village of Narlai. A morning jeep safari to find one of the four cheetahs living in the nearby hills.

Chasing cheetahs, Narlai, Rajasthan, India

Three days of faded majesty at the Raas Devigarh near Udaipur. A stop in Dungarpur where we explored an abandoned airplane, an antique car collection, and a strange replica pub in the Udai Bilas Palace. The beautiful, lost Juna Mahal sitting atop a hill in a remote village. Exploring block prints, exquisite art collections, and stepwells in and near Ahmedabad.

Followed by a comfortable return to New York, encountering friends among Theaster Gates’ ceramics at the New Museum on a wintry Saturday.

The year’s auspicious start settled into a consistent rhythm of work and life. In middle age, some comfort in consistency, as the world winds along its way, wondrous in moments, monstrous in others.

Some highlights from 2023 below and here is to 2024 not spinning out of control.

My aim is to bring more community and connection to the front this year, through art, food, music, and activism. I hope to see you soon.

Sin Wai Kin, The Story Changing @ BAMPFA in Berkeley, CA

Deeper Into Movies
The year was rich in movies. We launched Cinema Rodrigo out of the studio, as an experiment in bringing people together around art, which allowed us to see some wonderful films and make new friends.

A few highlights, old and new.

Movies
Joyland
Gods of Mexico
The Eight Mountains
Millenium Mambo
Tokyo Pop
Emitai
Calcutta 71
Contempt
Stop Making Sense

and Sin Wai Kin’s visually rich & absurd “The Story Changing” screening at BAMPFA in Berkeley, CA.

Nick Cave @ Guggenheim

Books and Music
Through the Center for Fiction, I participated in a number of fun book clubs, through which I particularly enjoyed The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks, as part of a series curated by Naomi and Julia at Hagfish and a deep reading of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying with Elizabeth Howard. And while I haven’t really come around to Iris Murdoch, reading four novels with a spiky group and Chantal Johnson was good fun.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard was a bit of magic.

E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World was a perfect tour through all that world history that you are taught and then forget and then spend time wandering Wikipedia in an effort to re-learn. All the nooks and crannies of adventure, tragedy, and wonder that got us to where we are, here, now.

The more quotidian contours of Hua Hsu’s tragic Stay True — immigrant childhood, Bay Area collegiate experience, finding yourself in music — mapped closely to my own life.

Chilean literature unintentionally found prominence this year — really enjoyed both Voyager and Space Invaders by Nona Fernandez and Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño.

Music
I felt a little trapped this year by the dual forces of middle age and “the algorithm.” Maybe in counterpoint to the intentionality that Cinema Rodrigo and a lot of time in theaters brought to movie watching, music felt a bit uninspired, awash in whatever felt comfortable or just came on.

A new Yo La Tengo album is always welcome, aptly titled This Stupid World. Enjoyed ANONHI’s My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross, as well.

The re-release of Stop Making Sense along with seeing I Get Wild cover Talking Heads at Littlefield.

Big Thief finally broke through for me, as did Caroline Rose. I really enjoyed the Warpaint cover of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” and Haley Heynderickx’ “Oom Sha La La.”

While maybe not quite big enough to fill the room, seeing The Walkmen with Rostam opening at Kings Theater was a good night.

Art, Performance, and Food
After India, travel was a bit more staid in 2023 — a lot of returns to familiar places, and some summer visits to Philadelphia while Erin was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Food
Kalaya — all the acclaim is deserved in their big, newish spot in Philadelphia.

Eeva — a star that burned too bright, good pizza and vibes, also in Philly.

Bar Bete — the leek vinaigrette salad, wine on the sidewalk, and a rad holiday party for Studio Rodrigo. Charming neighbors here in Brooklyn, NY.

Taquereia Y Mariscos Chapala — Norteño karaoke, spicy salsa, and tasty mariscos in Gilroy, CA.

Cruz del Sur — for the torta ahogada, to really get you going. Brooklyn, NY.

The Redwood — a small, charming new American spot with good wine in Sebastapol, CA.

Performances and Exhibitions
Theaster Gates @ New Museum
Nick Cave @ Guggenheium
Alex Katz @ Guggenheium
Henry Taylor @ Whitney
Africa Fashion Show @ BAM
The fairly insane Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA
Dorothy Liebes @ Cooper Hewitt
Judy Chicago @ New Museum
Barkley L. Hendricks @ Frick Madison

The annual studio visit to Dia: Beacon, Design Drinks at Three’s Brewing, and Katie & Ben’s fun Friday night set at Gottscheer Hall.

Erin’s Corner

Aki Kaurismäki’s film Fallen Leaves — feeling both contemporary and like the independent cinema of my youth, the movie was a tender love story with plenty of moments that made me laugh and a set that keeps me thinking of class and assumption — all this at a swift eighty minutes that also included a performance by the band Maustetytöt.

David Michon’s Substack, For Scale — a treat in its clarity strong opinions, distilled deep dives, playful manifestor, and material investigation into design, furniture, and the home — some favorites include “Life in Plastic,” “Exquisite Chaos,” and “”Chair Extremism” is good.”

Pastries from Burrow and tea at Hudson Wilder — nothing new but stopping for a pastry and coffee in Burrow in the morning in DUMBO is always a pleasure just as is stopping for a pot of tea at 142 Plymouth Street and enjoying the art installations on display.

Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up and Davy Chou’s Return to Seoul — The pacing of both of these films and some of each of their smaller moments and scenes have stayed with me since watching them and their themes of keeping a practice, searching for identity, and ideas of community.

The brie and olive sandwich (on Jerusalem baguette) with frozen mint lemonade at Breads Bakery — on a day of the week that consistently too busy and stressful, this was my balm and solution.

Alice Kagawa Parrott fiber art — a summer spent on a fellowship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art brought more joy that expected with everyone in the Center for American Art and feeling like that grand museum was in part mine for a few months. Near the end of my time, Costumes and Textiles invited me down to see their recent acquisition of a favorite artist of mine, Alice Kagawa Parrott, that vibrated in pinks, reds, and oranges.

“A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes” at the Cooper Hewitt — from Google search and Archives of American Art digging to spreadsheets and checklists to a exhibit full of color, sparkle and joy in Andrew Carnegie’s mansion, it was incredible to be a part of the research team that brought this to life — and my passion in researching the other many artists who were a part of the Liebes studio.

Detail, Barnes Foundation

Travel & Making
The start of our year in India was wondrous, including Jodhpur, Udaipur, Narlai, Dungarpur, and Ahmedbad. The Raas Devigarh a true highlight of a hotel, as were the charming Rawla Narlai and the insanely quirky Udai Bilas Palace. Dyeing and printmaking in Rajasthan and Gujarat were wonderful.

The rest of the year was dedicated to work, family, and friends, exploring Brooklyn and NYC, with visits to Providence, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Hollister / Central Coast, CA, San Jose & the peninsula, New Haven, New Britian, & Hartford, CT, summer returns to Philly, Salinas and Berkeley, CA, and Ann Arbor and Dearborn, MI.

A quiet year for photos, but you can find them here: https://www.instagram.com/rdholakia/

Canadian wilfire haze, Gowanus Canal

New Normals
Some people I respect are seemingly optimistic for 2024, both in terms of the economy, politics. Less optimistic about the unjust wars and inhumane violence that warfare brings.

Yet dread doesn’t fill me like I thought it might. But the new normals of things we can’t control, all over the world and close to home, justifies whatever low level anxiety everyone has. Living in interesting times, blessings and curses, I suppose.

With age and stability, my hope and goal is to keep creating and participating in community — around art, food, and culture & around activism centered on kindness, decency, and peace.

To 2024.

I hope we cross paths.

Amalia Pica, Venn Diagrams (Under the Spotlight) @ MoMA

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