Between the years of 2008 and 2014, it became the norm in my family to encounter on our visits to my dad’s place a giant wooden “E” on his coffee table. Or perhaps a shiny, rock hard submarine sandwich abandoned on the kitchen counter. Maybe even an entire boxful of plastic ice cream scoops, overflowing onto the dining room table. What could be found in the house was only a taste of what was barely contained within his artist’s studio, where innumerable wooden words and food and food-adjacent objects waited patiently for attentive repair. Explanation incoming: during these years, my dad had shouldered on the enormous responsibility of reviving the art installation gastrotypographicassemblage, an 8-by-33-foot three-dimensional mural that was once housed in the cafeteria of CBS’s New York headquarters.
Lou Dorfsman, the network’s creative director and organizer of the food wall, was a prominent name both within CBS and the Fasciano household. While he may have been hard to read, his sense of humor (as evidenced by the installation’s playful title) and dedication to his craft were more than apparent to us all. In his retirement, Lou had caught wind of some unfortunate news: his beloved gastrotypographicassemblage was dismantled and en route to the landfill. He needed the help of someone, anyone, who would be equally as devoted to the installation so as to assist him in saving it from the brink of total destruction. This is where my dad and his rental truck come speeding in.
The level of care and attention to detail received by the nine, 100-pound wall-mounted panels which make up the installation is beyond impressive, especially considering my dad had taken on this project entirely on his own. With the task of replacing 20 percent of the installation’s wooden typography and repairing or conserving the rest, my dad had a lot of ground to cover with this five year job, not to mention the project’s relatively slight budget. After Lou passed away in 2008, the effort gained new depth. Restoring gastrotypographicassemblage became an effort in preserving his memory.
Gastrotypographicassemblage held great significance in Lou’s life, as well as his family’s. My kids, eager to be a part of such an ambitious production, were given the task of sanding down a few corners. My sister, a designer, offered her advice and assistance on updating the aged piece. I, on the other hand, remain ashamed by my sole contribution, which was less of a contribution and more of an obstacle; not watching my step, I had accidentally knocked down one of the panels. While we quickly recovered from this mishap, I was appropriately mortified to have tacked on an extra setback to what was already a labor-intensive process. All in all, restoring gastrotypographicassemblage was an endeavor first taken on as a personal project, but quickly evolved to include the efforts of numerous friends and family. In fact, it was my dad’s best friend, a longtime restaurateur, who found a fitting new home for the installation at the Culinary Institute of America.
In March of 2014, a huge, emotional weight was lifted from my dad’s back. Gastrotypographicassemblage was finally completed and installed beautifully at the Culinary Institute, just in time to serve as a backdrop for the Class of ‘14’s graduation photos. Of course, the Fasciano clan had to visit the campus and take in the flavor of the installation’s new environment. It tasted amazing. We were treated with an artful multiple course meal by Culinary Institute students, followed by a tour of the campus, and finally a reveal of the wall. While we had been immersed in the project for years, there was nothing quite like seeing the finished product in its rightful place. We stared for too long, each minute a new feature catching our collective eye. From the wood-carved feet stepping on plastic grapes, to the playful “eat drink and be merry” font, to, of course, the hyperrealistic Italian sub, it is hard to look away from this masterpiece. While it was a pleasure encountering the scattered pieces of the wall during weekend visits to my parents’, I am glad to share the feast that is Lou and my dad’s gastrotypographicassemblage with many new admirers.