Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Garden and the Cage

Good weekend. Met GH's nephew S over dinner last night, at a Lower East Side Italian restaurant called Tres. He and his wife are light and sound installation artists. After dinner, we migrated over to the neighborhood garden, where we toasted marshmallows over a fire, put them with chocolate between crackers, and ate far too many of them. They are called s'mores, so I was told.

This afternoon, GH and I saw La Cage Aux Folles at Longacre Theatre. Kelsey Grammer (Georges) was a strong stage presence, but the show belonged to Douglas Hodge, who played Albin, also known as Zaza in the cabaret. Hodge, a classical actor who worked with Harold Pinter, was very funny, and very moving. The dancers "Les Cagelles" were terrific. First show I watched with GH, and I am glad we both enjoyed it very much. Musicals are great entertainment, when done well. As Georges said of the cabaret, they are "rather gaudy, rather grand."

Not gaudy, not grand is the small but exquisite show of Durer drawings at the Morgan. The engraving Adam and Eve (1504) is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The show I actually went to see was Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design. It was informative. I learned how the period prized the picturesque above the beautiful. One source of inspiration was actually Chinese gardens, descriptions of which were brought back by Jesuit priests. Instead of building strictly symmetrical gardens, the new designers tried "To consult the Genius of the Place," in Pope's formulation. However the hermit hut, designed for meditative retreat in many of these gardens, seemed overly precious from a modern perspective. Wordsworth was an amateur enthusiast of garden design. Olmsted and Vaux were influenced by the new ideas in their design proposal for Central Park.

LW, who went with me to the Morgan, told me about the collagist Anne Ryan at the Met Museum, and so I went to see her work. She was impressed by how much Kurt Schwitters could compress and evoke in his small collages, and so turned to that medium. I thought the works on display were uneven, although there were many beautiful ones. The one I liked best was most rhythmic, with brown verticals like tree trunks, green triangles, and red diamonds. Facing the Figure was a small show of American figurative painters. My favorite painting there was by Richard Diebenkorn. His painting of a reclining woman reminded me a lot of Matisse, in its composition and use of color.

So many things to see and do in New York but the summer is coming to an end. The green is tinged by yellows and browns. The campfire was an omen.

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