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Hidemi Takagi Turns Imported Food into Art at Times Square

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Artist Hidemi Takagi found this Colombian guava paste in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan. Artist Hidemi Takagi found this Colombian guava paste in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan. (Hidemi Takagi)

Diversity on the streets in New York City can be at its most visceral and eye-catching when you find it on the shelves of a neighborhood grocery store. Artist Hidemi Takagi has taken photos of food found in the city's various immigrant enclaves -- from a box of Mexican mole to canned herring from Poland -- and turned it into art. Takagi's exhibition "Blender" is the latest public art project to come to Times Square.

Takagi, who was born in Kyoto, Japan and now calls Brooklyn home, photographed canned, boxed and packaged items from 47 different countries and referenced them with the 35 New York City neighborhoods where she bought them.

“The look of these food packages often has an old-fashioned feel: bright, saturated colors and outmoded designs that are rare both in Japan, where I’m from, and America, where I now live," said Takagi on the Web site of the Times Square Alliance, which organized the show. "Through this project I hope to show that art can transcend time and language even through the simplest imagery found on a candy wrapper. 'Blender' is a lens into New York’s immigrant communities and cultures.”

From Bosnian salt from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to Slovakian chocolate from Long Island City, the message is clear: Follow your tastebuds.

"Blender" is on display in the Times Square Visitors Center as well as on 25 trash cans throughout Times Square through the end of August.

Serbian spread and Polish baby products from Hidemi Takagi's exhibit.
Hidemi Takagi
Serbian spread and Polish baby products from Hidemi Takagi's exhibit.
Turkish chocolate cream from Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Hidemi Takagi
Turkish chocolate cream from Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The photos can also be seen on trash cans amid the bustle of Times Square.
Hidemi Takagi/WNYC
The photos can also be seen on trash cans amid the bustle of Times Square.
Takagi handed some Parle-G Indian cookies to Dev Mehra, who is from India but lives in Jackson Heights.
Julia Furlan
Takagi handed some Parle-G Indian cookies to Dev Mehra, who is from India but lives in Jackson Heights.

"One time I went to Booklyn, Coney Island, and bought some Russian products. Sometimes I like to try other products. Indian products I've eaten for many years, like sometimes I go to Canal street to try other things," Mehra said, and asked for a Japanese lollipop as well.

Julia/WNYC
Takagi handed out candies she found in places like Sunnyside, Queens and Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

"I just realized that this is about cultural differences, and background differences. My husband is Haitian, so it's a different culture. I eat Haitian food sometimes and he eats Japanese food," Takagi said.

Karyn Caruso, visiting from Florida, was not enthused about the mango-chilli lollipop she tried as part of the opening for the exhibit.
Julia Furlan
Karyn Caruso, visiting from Florida, was not enthused about the mango-chilli lollipop she tried as part of the opening for the exhibit. "I thought it would be sweet," she said, "but it's spicy."
Postcards with photos from the exhibit.
Julia Furlan/WNYC
Postcards with photos from the exhibit.

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