“We don’t even want the word ‘café’ uttered,” grouses gallerist Janine Foeller, eyebrow raised, when discussing Wifey, her pop-up gallery-with-food-slash-bistro-with-art collaboration in Park Slope with Simone Shubuck. Given the pink countertop lined with pastries, sandwiches, and an espresso machine that greets visitors walking through the glass entrance, which itself is flanked by a pair of flowering trees, it’s an easy miscategorization. But a closer look reveals a world in progress, with an intriguing roster of food and art offerings assembled by Shubuck, an artist whose work Foeller began collecting in 2001.
“I wanted Simone to come in and conceive of the whole space, and integrate it with a food component and flowers,” Foeller explains of her vision for the two-thousand-square-foot space, wedged into a busy, nondescript corner of Flatbush Avenue. The current collection of Shubuck’s work on display is “about process,” and ranges from large, fantastical works on paper to stoic, earthy ceramics, with some containing overflowing bouquets arranged by the artist. There are also clusters of dramatic branches, a signature of Shubuck’s from her former days as the floral designer at Babbo and Blue Hill, a position she stumbled into while paying the bills as an artist working as a waitress. Says Foeller about the space, which will continue to change in the interim: “[Shubuck] is being additive and experimental and just allowing it to grow, as even the food component will change.”
An attention-grabbing roster of chefs is providing for Wifey’s menu, a tight collection of pastries, sandwiches, soft serve, and elixirs — specifically coffee, tea, and tepache (a fermented Mexican drink in the vein of kombucha, made in batches by Bon Appetit’s test kitchen manager Brad Leone using pineapple, ginger, and habanero). The limited number of sandwiches are prepared daily by Café Altro Paradiso using slow-fermented, whole-grain focaccia baked by cult baker Pam Yung. Altro Paradiso pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz, meanwhile, is creating fanciful cakes topped with showstoppers like candied hemp and wild edible flowers, while Hearth’s celebrated pastry chef Karen DeMasco recently joined the lineup with her blackberry corn muffins. Foeller explains the rotating roster of collaborations by way of “just sort of tapping into our creative community.”
Foeller insists that Wifey was solely Shubuck’s vision, with each consideration put into place by the artist, from every hand-painted coffee mug — made in collaboration with potter Julie Hirschfeld — to the record player spinning scratchy, ear-pleasing albums, shifting from Al Green to the Beach Boys. Even the gender-free loo seems to be a portal into the artist’s mind, and worth a visit: an aura-shifting, salmon-hued box lacquered with a mosaic of personal artifacts including announcements from Shubuck’s past shows, intricate sketches, and pages torn from select books.
Shubuck is currently back in the studio working toward the final iteration of the project, which is being planned with an opening for late September, running through October. “Her work is very multidisciplinary, and since the very beginning she’s integrated food and flowers in her work,” says Foeller, who describes dinners parties at Shubuck’s home as being “super creative” with beautiful plates of food. “I don’t think people [realize this], as she’s known for her very detailed work on paper. I was kind of obsessed with the idea of [her] doing it all, just blowing it out, and then bringing that concept to this space.”
336 Flatbush Avenue
Wednesday–Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 13, 2017