Sweet Alley

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Tony Thompson’s closing reception was last night.  He’d been showing his artwork at Kasai Ramen, 218 Walton Street, Syracuse, New York 13203 for two months.  I decided to go and it was the first time I’d been to this location in twenty-six years!  OMG.  It used to be Sweet Baba’s, the very first place I exhibited my own art.  I was the house artist for a while – I don’t remember how long, but it was the place where I sold my first painting, which led to a commission.  Fond memories.

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The restaurant itself is a work of art.  It was built in the alley between two buildings.  The Walton Street entrance boasts a cozy bar area and some seating.  There are three staircases, one a spiral, that lead to a lower level filled with the ambiance of brick walls, dark lighting and the dance of kitchen staff preparing asian fusion meals to perfection.

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“Kasai Ramen is a 100 seat, two level restaurant. Its menu features traditional Ramen and Izakaya dishes with a Salt City attitude. Featuring superior service and exceptional quality food in an electric fast paced atmosphere Kasai is the restaurant to dine at in Armory Square. Come enjoy an order of Pork Gyoza, Shrimp Steam Buns, Shoyu Ramen and a Whole Roasted Duck!”

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Thompson is a Syracuse bred artist currently living in Utica, New York.  He exhibits regionally and is part of the graffiti/tattoo stable of artists led by my friend Jamie Santos.  These thirty somethings have commandeered the art scene here with many cool-themed pop-up shows and curated group restaurant gigs under their young hipster belts.

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The work here is cohesive.  Thompson uses found object canvases – discarded windows, old cabinets and wood scraps.  His work is a narrative of the inner workings of his mind.  Portraits that bring to mind a Basquiat quality with competent, confident line quality that belies his mostly self-taught status.  The other imagery appears like a nightmare jutxaposed with sweet child-like innocence.  My favorite pieces are the glass ones.  They are a fun marriage of old and new, the window allowing the viewer to, sort of, see into the artist’s engagingly energetic mind.

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Next up for the restaurant is a show by Jamie and beyond that, a curated Japanese-themed one that I may be a part of.  I am immersed in Japanese art and culture right now with four of my classes using Hokusai and other wood block print references, so it may be up my alley. (Get it?  Because Kasai Ramen is built in an alley….)

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Find Tony Thompson on Facebook.

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