Philip Guston, "Shoes," 1972, oil on panel
March 15 evening: GH and I attended a Singapore get-together at P and A's home. I was expecting an informal potluck event, but that showed how out of touch I am with my Singapore friends. A is Singapore's ambassdaor to the UN, and so lived in appropriately well-appointed circumstances. A man took our jackets, another tended to the bar. Yet another took away our dishes after we were done feasting on the buffet dinner. Fortunately P and A were a very down-to-earth couple. Unlike some of the suits there, A was wearing just shirtsleeves. They soon made us feel welcomed. I had not seen P for years, and was pleased to see that she has not changed in appearance or manners, at least not at first re-acquaintance. I met a woman who works for one of the UN bodies, and her husband who teaches management studies at Columbia. There was also a fiction-writer who lives at Morningside Heights. A ceramist named Wee Hong Ling told us her fascinating story about switching from doctoral studies in Gepgraphy to working with ceramics. Our lives possess the interest of variations upon a theme.
March 16 evening: W and I celebrated our birthdays together, with GH, at Briciola, a wine bar in Hell's Kitchen. The food and wine were good, though the service was a little lackluster.
March 20 evening: GH took me to hear Bach at Avery Fisher for my birthday. Quebecois Bernard Labadie conducted the NY Phil. The German violinist had the rather wonderful name of Isabelle Faust. The hall was far too big for the music. Hearing the Violin Concertos in A minor and E major one after another was too much of a good thing. I thought the orchestra and the soloist came together only in the second concerto. The program ended with a bang with Orchestral Suite No. 3.
March 21: went with L and XF to the Met Museum. Street, a new video by British-born artist James Nares, was as mesmerizing as watching people on the street. After filming the crowded streets of New York with a high-definition camera from inside a moving car, Nares edited the film by slowing down the movement. The effect made everyone look beautiful. I didn't know if that was due to the new quality of our attention or due to the inherent beauty in people that we too often miss in our rush. The film formed the centerpiece of an exhibit of works from the Met's permanent collection, selected by Nares as points of entry to his work. Most striking was an Egyptian relief carving showing the graceful hand of a female priest, letting drop a globule of fat. The William Eggleston show in the next room, At War with the Obvious, had one truly beautiful photograph: at the far end of a wooden table perch the hot sauce, salt and pepper. The Impressionist fashion show was surprisingly blah, given some of the wonderful paintings on exhibit.
We walked from the Met to McKee Gallery to see the centennial show of Philip Guston. L loved his work ever since she was first befuddled by it. She compared him to Homer in his brutality and humanity. I liked the smaller pieces better. They have the thinginess of things in them, without the magniloquence. Afterwards, XF brought us to a Grand Sichuan restaurant where I had a delicious bowl of dan dan mian.