Liquor Is Quicker but Butter Is Better

By Brandon SwardMarch 14, 2024

Liquor Is Quicker but Butter Is Better
LOS ANGELES BAR: SECOND POUR, EARTH, Los Angeles, February 27–March 30, 2024.

If you needed me the first weekend of March, I was likely in a smallish concrete box. The space, nestled between two houses on Echo Park Avenue, is hosting Second Pour, a reinstallation of Los Angeles Bar, a reimagination of an earlier solo show at In Lieu in February and March 2024 by Ficus Interfaith, an artist duo consisting of Ryan Bush and Raphael Martinez Cohen. In this new iteration, Bush and Martinez Cohen have curated themselves into a cloud of friends and colleagues.

Ficus Interfaith is perhaps most well known for their work in terrazzo, an old and labor-intensive composite material that is historically made from leftover chips combined with a cementitious binder, and either poured into place or precast. (Over the past several years, Ficus Interfaith has expanded beyond more conventional materials like quartz, marble, and granite to experiment with shells, bones, and fruit pits.) For Los Angeles Bar, the duo created a collection of terrazzo counters, tables, and stools. Now, these provide the substrate of Second Pour.

The bar was in operation for four days during “fair week,” that alignment of the Frieze and Felix art fairs that draws the hip and mobile from every corner of the globe (though the exhibition itself is up until March 30). If you came during these hours, you would have been greeted by not only your choice of white, red, or vodka soda but also loaf upon loaf of bread. You would have met Young Gun Lee throwing butter on a potter’s wheel, producing delicate pots filled with single flowers, a dark pomegranate syrup, or—in one case—tuna salad from Trader Joe’s.

The tuna references Tuna Tartare, Lena Greene’s self-described “trashy karaoke musical about an expired can of tuna fish who runs a karaoke bar in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.” Indeed, the entire affair attempts to actualize the absurdist fictional THROATS Karaoke Bar that Greene’s show envisions. (I saw several THROATS Karaoke hats on attendees, branded content for an imaginary business.) During the last night of the bar’s operation, Greene herself—wearing a slinky baby blue dress with matching eye shadow and electric blue fishnets—led the crowd in lo-fi karaoke with all the skill and zeal of a teenager who had just discovered musical theater.

It was unsurprising, then, that Greene sang “Popular” from Wicked. Yours truly performed his go-to—“Drive” by Incubus, dedicated (naturally) to the state of California. Raph Martinez Cohen braved technical difficulties to give us a partial “Birthday” (the Sugarcubes) and a whole “Don’t Let Me Down” (the Beatles). Curator Anna Frost and architect Andre Herrero belted out “Shallow,” reminding those of us in attendance that a party isn’t a party without Lady Gaga. Artist Emma Pryde didn’t sing, but her pastel pony sculpture stood as silent witness.

We received our 20-minute warning that the bar would close at 8:45 p.m. The crowd began to disperse, leaving a trail of crusts and crumbs in their wake. As I waited for my Uber awash in endorphins, my mind turned to this review (yes, this one) and I reflected on what, if anything, I’d learned. And so, I dutifully report: butter is better with friends.


Photo of Lena Greene performing by Anna Frost, provided by Lena Greene.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Brandon Sward is an artist, writer, and organizer in Los Angeles. He used to edit the LARB Short Takes section, and is currently at work on a book about growing up queer and biracial in Colorado Springs, the “Evangelical Vatican.”


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