Life Cafe Blog

Posts Tagged ‘art’


August 4, 2014

This is a very special event and a limited time offer — I’m selling all the original collaged table tops from the East Village Life Cafe. Wouldn’t you love to have one?

Horned Man - Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Horned Man – Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Oh the memories . . . .

Cars around Coffee Cup

Cars around Coffee Cup

If you don’t get one, they might just go to Museum of the City of New York instead. This is your chance.

Raquel Welsh Table

Raquel Welsh Table

I’ll be in the Bushwick area early September. The tables will be available for about a week while I’m there. Email me at and let me know which one you want and to make arrangements.

Music Scores

Music Scores

Each is unique. They would make  wonderful table tops; they would make better wall art.

Baby Face

Baby Face

Most if not all of  the tables are shown here. There are about twenty of them; 17 measure about 30″ x 30″ and 3 measure about 24″ x 24″. The stands are not included.

Space Model

Space Model

Come to think of it, I believe there are only two 24″ tables — I donated one to Adelphi University. It’s on display in the lobby of the  AU PAC (Adelphi University Performing Arts Center) along with the Jonathan Larson Bench and a collaged wall panel from Life Cafe as well as a stage panel from the original stage production of RENT at the Nederlander Theater that I also donated.

Baby Toot Table

Baby Toot Table

I’m selling them for a little more than I paid the artists to make them. They used actual pages from vintage Life Magazines from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The large tops are $125 and the small $100 and include the dried up bubble gum on the bottoms, a real piece of New York City history.That’s a bargain and your luck as I must sell them quickly.

Baseball Table

Baseball Table

They were produced around 1996/1997 by two artists. One was David Chambard, a French painter, who I met in his studio/home in the Woodstock area. Last I heard he’s living and selling his art in Paris. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the second artist’s name. If you remember him, please let me know. He also had one or two art shows at Life Cafe.

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Did you meet your significant other at Life Cafe? Maybe this was the table at which you sat when your life changed for the better.



These are the tables of legend, the ones upon which Jonathan Larson envisaged his cast of East Village characters dancing while singing La Vie Boheme. 

Marlboro Man

Marlboro Man

These are the tables actually danced upon in real life by hordes of RENT fans from around the world at special RENT events at Life Cafe.

Soaring through Life

Soaring through Life

I met 4 lead members from the Japanese cast of RENT at these  tables when they came to see a Broadway performance.

Funny Man Face

Funny Man Face

During a second visit by the entire Japanese cast, all 20+ of them sang La Vie Boheme in English, then again in Japanese to the astonishment and delight of all our customers during a busy brunch.

Satellite Dishes

Satellite Dishes

That was a tear jerking, stunning moment for me. Oh, the memories.

Hallway with Door

Hallway with Door

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

More Politicians

More Politicians

Think about it.

Wheat Field

Wheat Field

But not for too long.

Woman Monkey

Woman Monkey

You can also leave me a comment below. But it’s better to email me at



So many lives passed across these tables at Life Cafe.



Lovers, poets, the lonely, dreamers, thinkers, actors with and without parts to play.



The coffees, the beers, the losers and the leaders. All lives at Life passed across here.

If tables could talk, imagine what you could hear. Imagine what conversations you might have.

I’ll be in Bushwick the first week of September. Email me your interest at and I’ll respond immediately. If you’re not in New York City and need a table top shipped, I’ll attempt to make those arrangements and there will be additional handling and shipping costs.


Kathy Life





Life Cafe 983 featured artist in April is Lindsay Hutchinson


Featured Artist Lindsay Hutchinson

Lindsay Hutchinson

Featured Artist of the Month, April 2012

A review by John Sunderland

Exhibition Title:  ‘101 Hipsters’

Lindsay Hutchinson comes over as a quietly modest young woman from what I could tell during the hour or so we spent early this morning as she and her helper faced the monumental task of installing an exhibit of 101 paintings (or so I thought) in the hour prior to opening the café.  In fact there were, 42 or is it 43. No matter; numbers and volume do not really count in this wonderful exhibition.

In essence it appears simple. Some forty small rectangular flat-colored portraits, head and shoulders only, delineated by sinuous black expressive line.  I watched as each came out of the cardboard box and was held up to the wall for positioning. With every new piece it was like being introduced to someone new, and in a way someone you knew, as so many of the faces seemed familiar.

Lindsay’s multiple stylized figurative portraits are taken from her world of Bushwick Hipsterdom; friends and people she knows from the garden and the store, people from her building and the street. The twenty-something, thirty-something burghers of Morganville are here represented, the class of 2011/2012.

Working from observation and photographs Lindsay renders each in a similar process that looks deceptively simple, using line to delineate and provide form and expression and color, often totally unnatural as expressive decoration. Without resorting to caricature, with a sure eye and hand, she manages each time to capture a real sense of the individual.

Labels for groups of people tend to assist in the mental grouping of them all together as a genre. And here to an extent that happens, Hipsters, but only if your eyes aren’t quite open when all the kaleidoscope colors appear like a jar of jelly-beans.  Open more widely and focus and you will find succinct and character-full portrayals you feel you know —  and maybe you do.

You become captivated by the charm of each and the contact with every single person. But then grouped together as they are in blocks of twelve, you really do gain a sense of the quilted community of colorful young souls that make up a large part of the unique Bushwick community.

Deliberately mounted in irregular style, see how the subjects move about and jostle as though in a village of personalities with messages to keep or share.

It is a really wonderful show. We at Life Café hope you enjoy it. Who knows; you might see yourself up there!

Lindsey Hutchinson, originally from Indiana, is a local artist living and working in Bushwick. She says of this exhibition: “I am a Hipster. You are a Hipster. That dude over there is a Hipster.” Never was a truer word said.

This Month’s Artist @ Life Cafe 983

Leslie Van Stelten Biography

Originally hailing from Denver,Colorado, Leslie Van Stelten is one of those transplants to the Big Apple who has rooted herself into the cracked pavements and graffiti-covered buildings of Brooklyn like a glorious weed that can’t help but grow and flourish in such a steely environment.

She’s a photographer and photo illustrator of exceptional talents whose work appears regularly on CD packages for bands and musicians, in local publications such as The Village Voice and Go Magazine, and prestigious design and publicity projects.  But her heart and soul explode into action when capturing the denizens of the NYC underground scene like no one else – from the unique subjects to the stunning lighting to the exaggerated reality she portrays, Leslie’s work evokes a visceral feeling in the viewer that’s hard to shake and impossible to forget.

She has exhibited her striking work in galleries all over New York Cityand is pleased to be presenting at Sugarland.  For a look at more of Leslie’s work, please go to

Julia Sinelnikova at Life Cafe 983


Julia Sinelnikova

Life Café Bushwick, Artist of the Month

December 2011

John Sunderland

I have been fortunate in my life to live in some beautiful places, and then I came to Bushwick; which to my mind has to be one of the ugliest places on the planet, why else would the artists of the street try to paint it out?

And here this month we have someone who sees beauty where, in daylight at least I see only the beast.


I have been in two minds about Julia’s show.  To be honest I think the exhibition on the right hand side of the wall, is truly worthy of comment, but not so the three large paintings on the left, which don’t appear to belong in the company of the rest.


Sunsets and reflected light from natural and unnatural sources transform Bushwick from dusk to dawn; then it becomes a place of mystery, Chirico shadows and possible threat. But high on the rooftops above the streets the greatest show on earth is still playing.

Rather than go for the obvious iconic view of Manhattan set against a flame red sky, Julia looks closer and sees beauty in the momentary passing of light above the shadow blocks of Bushwick, and reminds us that nature gives us a fresh start every morning and wipes the slate clean every night.


It’s not easy to capture fleeting moments, and equally it takes a special skill to capture fleeting moods as the artist does so well with her interiors, where she shows us glimpses of transitory loft-life. We may want to know more but we never shall.


The one piece that really does it for me in this show is, “On the Brink”. This is a painting you could live with, it would always draw you to it; there would always be questions, never a dull moment. It could be a canvas that in the end could drive you mad.

Julia has captured here two people standing together, their naked feet in the moving water. That’s all we know, apart from the delicious fact that this is a moment set to pass and unfold. Quite how- we shall have to wait and see. Time for another glass!


Rachel Echanique @ Life Cafe 983

Exhibition Review
Raquel Echanique
Life Café Bushwick
8th – 20th November 2011

The View from the Bar

Rachel Echanique

By John Sunderland

I always think first impressions count. The first impression I had when seeing this exhibit was; there are five screaming women in the bar that weren’t here yesterday!

It ‘s a bit of a shock actually, like having all your ex-wives show up at brunch and start up on you again!
However relax, once seated at the bar and looking back, you see that the your personal connection has nothing to do with it, these females are not screaming- they are exploding, exploding with energy which is unraveling before your eyes.

The focus of each painting is the mouth. The mouths of the subjects are wide-open and crazy with joy, ecstasy or fear, or all three; it’s up to the viewer. Secondary impressions come, the image of the girl in the strobe-lit disco, a still frame from a riot scene in a magazine; the moment your wife gave birth.
Those images fade along with a catalogue of others; then your brain says, hang on these aren’t faces, they are moments when whiplashes of paint, the flashes of blades of color and line, the un-coiling of springs, conspired momentarily to form faces of women unknown.

Raquel Echanique is the latest artist from the HART950 Gallery; my last review of was about drawing; Echanique is a painter, with a sure-hand mastery over what she wants the brush to do; it is she who blows up on the canvas in these works, and the results are sheer energy in the form of controlled explosions. And after you have taken them in, you realize that the motion has not stopped, the explosion continues to expand.
Somewhere in the artist’s mind the moments before each frozen frame exist, and somewhere beyond, her whiplash brushes conjure up other
moments of joy, ecstasy or fear, as they coil and thrash on into the future.

Nick Greenwald-Augustnots

Nick Greenwald. AUGUSTNOTS.

A Review


By John Sunderland


A pencil is a tool for the brain and drawing is a process of synthesis, a personally based balance of mapping and reactive emotion.  In Nick Greenwald’s hands, drawing instruments become tools of discovery. What we get to share are the graphic results of his searching.


Although the works on the Café wall this week are multi-media in execution – photo prints over-laid by marks, tears, burns, paint, collage, scratched and scorched – they’re all drawings.


For subject matter, if you want to call a person’s attention, use the human face as your muse. Here Nick uses faces like maps that he is both trying to read and explore at the same time. We are sensitive to our faces and read the faces of others all the time, so it’s fascinating when an artist explores the surface, even if, as in these images, the subjects are pretty much devoid of expression. But Nick’s not making portraits; I don’t see him attempting to go deeper into the mind of the subject at all. Rather, the works are about surface and effects and what he can do with them.


What’s to enjoy in this exhibition is a sense of the artist’s undiluted love of drawing. I bet he draws in his sleep, and during the day hangs out in art stores drooling over pencils, pens and markers.  It’s on that level, the enjoyment of drawing as discovery that we share in his journey.


And thank goodness someone is still drawing; all art begins with drawing. This age has largely turned its back on drawing as the most essential medium of expression and communication.  Today we have come to rely more and more on digitized tools to process the making of marks and thereby interrupt the natural human synthesis; from brain, through mind, to hand, to eye, to brain and mind of another.


Nick Greenwald-AUGUSTNOTS

There is nothing digitized here. Here is a man in love with making marks of his own, turning over the leaves of the jungle with his pencil. And, if he doesn’t give up on the search, he’s well on his way to becoming a maestro of his medium.


Come and enjoy another dish of brain-food and another terrific exhibit from the stable of emergent talent that is Hart Gallery 950.


From October 26 – November 3, 2011, at Life Café 983, Bushwick, Brooklyn


Art Life-Matt Brennan

Art Life


Matt Brennan

October 16 through October 23, 2011



Review by John Sunderland


Matt Brennan’s 9 illustrated pieces, artist #2 in the Gallery950 line-up for October and November at Life Café 983, Bushwick.



My first impression of Matt Brennan’s exhibit was, “Look! Some chap is skate boarding up our wall!”  That’s what you see first, skateboards minus wheels. And if that’s all you see, this show could be a yawn and something you might not investigate further. That would be a shame because Matt’s unique pieces are gems, the product of a fervent concentrated obsessive energy and inward seeking intelligence; well worth giving time to.

Apart from two of the six pieces, “Ghost” and “Lightning bolt,” which are somehow left of stage, the other seven pieces, all hung vertically, require close attention, very close attention.



Four of the pieces are on white board and the artwork is linear and incredibly detailed. Each of these has a theme and a suggestive title: “Cog,” “Navigator,” “Old One,” and my personal favorite title, “Astrosludge.” To arrive at the connection with the title, if there is one, is like looking at a tangle of fine string and wondering if it really makes a knot.



The other pieces, executed on boards minus skate wheels are in color and display the same intensity. But these designs are broader with figurative elements as though the boards have been tattooed by an expert accomplished at placing the design exactly where he wants it.


I am not going to attempt to explain the meaning of each piece with titles like “Grigleysmith” and “Possessed Lion.” The interpretation is up to the observer (and I reckon over a couple of beers, you’ll have several).



All in all, do take the time, peer over the heads of the diners this weekend and have a closer look. You will be greatly rewarded for your effort.


Chalk Talk – Menu Picture Riddle

I thought this was as surreal as you can get, an Abacus with eggs?

Easy does it with the sums!


An exhibition of 12 of the best Life Cafe Menu Picture Riddles from the past year by John Sunderland, Artist and Mental Tease, who promises:
“All will be stripped away to reveal the answers and the ideas behind the images.”

July 1 through July 31, 2010

Life Cafe 983, Bushwick Brooklyn

Opening Party Tuesday, July 6,  7 pm -10pm

(*all original works and prints to order for sale)

Life Cafe East Village – Riddle Raffle June 21

riddle raffle