The Box, the ultra exclusive downtown dinner club known for its phantasmagorical stage productions, was the setting Wednesday night for the launch party of Flatt Magazine's fourth issue. Flatt is the art world insider bible with a mission statement to sponsor and celebrate creative entrepreneurs and contemporary philanthropic ideas. To that end, Flatt is produced as a lush tome full of gorgeous photography spreads, detailed interviews with subjects of varied creative disciplines and an astonishing lack of advertising. It is all art for art's sake, and the only commerce evident is the productive ends to which the endeavor is put to. The front cover this month features a portrait of the guitarist and actor, Gary Clark Jr. and the bold statement that it is made in America. That proud spirit is amply served by the current issue, featuring as it does an eclectic mix of artists from every part of the globe. American, indeed.
The launch party was highlighted by performances from two artists featured in the issue, singer, pianist and songwriter, Niia Bertino and Eric Robert Lewis, who, under his stage name, ELEW, is a jazz pianist who has found crossover success playing rock and pop music. In honor of the late Kurt Cobain's birthday, ELEW pounded out a mythic rendition of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' that brought the house down. He followed this with a bombastic cover of Coldplay's 'Fix You' that elicited hysterical shouts of approval from every corner of the packed room. ELEW performs unseated, and if it is possible to give such a lugubrious instrument the freedom of an electric guitar, he accomplishes it. Bertino is a vocalist who has been compared to such iconic chanteuses as Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Sinatra, and Nina Simone. A protegee of musical impresario, Wyclef Jean, Bertino manifests a sylph like presence onstage that belies the audacious timber of her voice. She was selected by the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts as one of the top 100 singers in the country in 2005. In 2007 she appeared in the "Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill) video that featured Jean, Akon, and Lil Wayne.
After the live performances, a DJ set featuring a collaboration between the legendary Rock 'n Roll photographer, Mick Rock and the artist, Todd DiCiurcio, held the crowd in sway as the evening wound deep into the night. Rock is a featured artist in Flatt's fourth issue, and the interview, conducted by DiCuircio, is accompanied by a selection of his work that is symbolic of music's most important epochs. A double page spread of his 1974 shot of The Pointer Sisters in London perfectly captures the satin chic of the Disco era. A 1980 black and white shot, of a then unknown Madonna licking her shoulder, is a testament to his role as documentarian of the origins and rise of the icons of music's firmament. DiCiurcio is a NY based artist whose drawings and paintings are created within the context of live musical performances. Through incorporating the temporality of music, DiCiurcio's work creates a significant and poignantly energetic aesthetic composition. The blend of these two artists was an inspired choice for Flatt's fourth issue, as well as purveyors of the tunes for the night's revels.
The Box, opened in 2007, has a reputation for exclusivity and lavishly transgressive stage shows combining burlesque and circus-like freak acts. The singer Alicia Keys witnessed a slyly raunchy "reverse strip tease" during the release party she held at The Box for her 'Girl on Fire' album in 2012, and the velvet rope outside the club is notoriously uncompromising when it comes to entering its unmarked doors. The brainchild of nightlife wunderkind, Simon Hammerstein, whose grandfather, Oscar, composed 'The Sound of Music' and 'Oklahoma' with Richard Rodgers, The Box has maintained its reputation as a venue for high brow performance mixed with wee hour debauchery. This under the radar club, that has captivated the imagination of NYC's nightlife, offered the followers of Flatt a setting that was one part speakeasy, one part saloon and one part theater of the sublime. The cocktails for the evening were sponsored by Brugal Extra Dry Rum, and the tables were stacked with little boxes of Ardency Inn's Punker eyeliner. And, yes, each guest received a complimentary copy of Flatt Magazine's fourth issue.