Tuesday, March 22, 2016


1. a group of individuals or organizations combined to promote some common interest

When I first moved to New York, one of the things I wanted most--in addition to your usual success, apartment, ravishing style sensibilities--was a crew. That group of people I could call whenever I wanted to hang out, to go to a concert, to dinner, for drinks, what have you. Basically I wanted my life to be Friends. This was, however, contrary to the way I had lived my life to the point I arrived in New York and continues to be this way--I had always been more of a floater, close with several people sprinkled in different groups. Other people, though, are very good at and have always been good at maintaining a close circle, and one of those is Akeem Duncan.

I met Akeem many moons ago now when I was working with an arts collaborative. His magazine, an arts publication called Quiet Lunch, covered one of our events, and he and the publication stayed on my radar ever since. Akeem's crew, his syndicate, is a group of passionate individuals who don't think in terms of boundaries, but only possibilities, always seeking to continue developing the magazine as a network and an arbiter of taste. I have had the privilege of seeing Quiet Lunch grow, their connections in the art world blossoming to impressive heights. Akeem is one of those people who truly has an eye for unique talent--he featured artist Shantell Martin in the magazine long before Converse hired her to do artwork for their billboards, and I saw band Tei Shi in the publication eons before its lead singer was in Elle Magazine. In short, the man not only knows talent, but knows where to dig for it.

I was not surprised, then, that his first solo-curated exhibition, "Selfish" at Brilliant Champions gallery in Bushwick, was a stunning success. Every work in the show, be it painting or photography or mixed media or collage, was a self-portrait that inspired interest in process, was a stunning visual, and was a bold insight into the artist's imagination. It is, as the gallery says, "a vivid exemplar of imaginative introspection." Akeem, a curator in his very soul, brought together new artists (so new their first works were featured in the show) with artists he had met at different fairs around the country like Art Basel. I was especially taken with the photographic paper sculptures of Nate Lewis, the photo collage work of model/artist Louise Donegan, and Megan Tatem's delightfully deadpan and provocative self-portrait on a toilet, though I would say almost every piece in the show is strong. Akeem has never been afraid of new work, of new artists, and promotes them whenever he has the opportunity which is, sadly, not the case with most of the art world. I would highly recommend checking out the show at the lovely and petite Brilliant Champions if you happen to have a moment or several to spare.

On the night I was there at the opening, there was a gorgeous peacock, Dexter, who happened to be one of the pets of another artist. Walking outside, Dexter was perched on the artist's shoulder, a study in absurdity and elegance on a leash. But then again, I shouldn't be surprised. That's just how Akeem and his crew roll.


I had heard about this Bushwick spot--a restaurant/movie theater/cocktail bar in a former industrial space? Yes please!--in an article praising its cocktails and thought it might be fun to go. But I couldn't remember the name or the location of it. However, leaving the "Selfish" opening at Brilliant Champions, SE and I walked down Bogart Street to the train when we spot Syndicated. "Oh! That's it! That's the place I was telling you about!" I said emphatically, slapping SE on the arm of his black leather jacket. SE, who has a such a penchant for cocktails that his home bar likely rivals more than one bar in the city, was game if I was, so we went inside. There was gorgeous, art deco detailing on the steps as we entered, which was duplicated inside with sconces and light fixtures behind the bar, a welcome juxtaposition against exposed turquoise pipes. The ceilings were gorgeously, unspeakably high for any location in the five boroughs, but that's one of the benefits of making a restaurant in a former industrial space, after all. Windows topped the space and a giant bar in the center was stacked, pyramid-like with high-end liquors. The bartender was a fellow whose name was Tom but went by Cat, and I decided I would like to come back as such a man in another life. We ordered cocktails inspired by classic cinema--a Lawnmower Man for me (Hophead vodka, cachaca, market green juice, chili syrup, carrot juice, and lemon) and a Steve McQueen (Old Overholt rye, Carpano Antica, Dolin dry vermouth, whiskey barrel-aged bitters) for SE.

In the back of Syndicated, there is a movie theatre where they screen classics (and "classics") like A League of Their Own, Leprechaun, and Clueless for $3 per ticket, $5 for a double feature. But we perched ourselves at the bar and happily sipped our cocktails: mine, I'm happy to say, was easily one of the best cocktails I've ever had. As someone whose face morphs into something like Edvard Munch's The Scream upon the mere idea of drinking a green juice, I think that says quite a lot. The veggie taste was made subtle by the chili syrup and cachaca but, having had little to eat before I drank it, I was shortly, yet very happily, in my socks. We ordered grilled mojo skewers of chicken, lamb, and beef and Scrumpets, corned beef short ribs served with russian dressing (which had hardboiled eggs in it! How wild!). SE beared with me as I gushed (slurred?) about their crispy, juicy, meaty deliciousness. In the short space of an evening, this place we dove into on a whim became the second syndicate worth returning to Bushwick for.