Critic's Notebook

Artusi Chef Jason Stratton Explains the Mural

He put the art in Artusi…but should he have?

By Kathryn Robinson November 14, 2011

The mural at Artusi.

Since his aperitif bar Artusi opened last June, aesthetes about town have been abuzz over chef Jason Stratton’s truffle tripe, his salsa tonnata, his dazzling Amari selection. Not to mention the 47-foot mural the good chef himself painted for the space.

Girdling the room, the panels splashed with vivid blues, yellows, pinks, and greens gives the clear impression of, well…preschoolers at the finger-painting station. “I remember the very first comment we heard about it,” admits Stratton. “That it looks like something someone’s autistic little brother would’ve done.”

This the good chef shares without a whiff of shame. “Frankly I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to paint a 47-foot mural while I was opening a restaurant,” Stratton chuckles, not even mentioning his other project, the stunning Piedmontese restaurant next door, Cascina Spinasse. “But I wanted to put my stamp on the room, in a personal way. I love the piece.”

In both the eats and the décor of Artusi, Stratton was interested in exploring the chaos of the organic form; the way natural elements are disorderly but we can impose order upon them. As against the rows of hex tiles that make up a visual trope in Artusi, Stratton yearned to introduce chaos. “Marks of the human hand,” he explains.

Aka: finger-painting.

“Like any art, some will like it,” Stratton philosophizes. “And some will loathe it.”

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