Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Wrap-up

Peter Koch holding one of his gorgeous books at Codex.I
Early in 2013 (like January), I went to Key West for the literary seminar, a three-day affair on literary biography that featured Colm Toibin, Lyndall Gordon, Edmund White, Blake Bailey, and others. Key West is the lovechild of Edgartown, MA, and New Orleans - white clapboard houses and graves that sit on the ground, not under it. In February, continuing this literary theme, I went to Codex, a gathering of art book publishers that took place at the old Ford Plant on the waterfront in Richmond, CA, where I ran into my neighbor, the art book printer and publisher Peter Koch. I hadn't seen him in years, but we quickly revived our friendship.


Ward Schumacher (left) and John Zurier.
Another more recent friendship is with the painter and illustrator Ward Schumacher. Last winter we went for two gallery walks in the best flâneur manner. On one occasion, we started  at the George Larson Gallery off Union Square, went on to StorefrontLab on Shotwell at 18th Street, the admirably creative venture of Yosh Asato and David Baker, and ended up at a new mag launch party at Valencia and 24th Streets, in a gallery featuring tintypes and other avant-garde photography. On another occasion, our walk ended with dinner with Ward and his wife, Vivienne Flesher, at their house on Potrero Hill.

Joni Waka and his dog at Hamada's studio.
In April, I went to Tokyo in the company of my friend and writing partner Richard Bender. I saw many friends, including the planner Kei Minohara, the architect Minoru Takeyama, my UC Berkeley classmate Ken Kawarabayashi and his wife, who hosted me to lunch and the sights of Yokohama, my planner/writer friend Miho Ito, and the estimable Joni Waka, art impresario, who very kindly took me on an excursion to meet a master potter and visit the studio of Shoji Hamada (1894-1978), a renowned potter whose work I also saw at the V&A in London in September. (He collaborated with the English potter Bernard Leach, living and working with him in St. Ives in the early 1920.) Waka lives in the "Dog House" he commissioned, designed with the artist Joseph Kosuth, which I visited. In Tokyo, I also saw the remarkable Nezu Museum and Garden, with two new buildings by Kengo Kuma. (The buildings are great, but the garden is sublime.) I also saw Klein Dytham's Tsutaya bookstore in Daikanyama and, thanks to the Carnegie Museum of Art's Raymund Ryan, met and interviewed the architect Takaharu Tezuka at his office in Todoroki (across from the famous temple and its gorgeous and dramatic grounds).

At MoMA in May.
In late May and early June, I made a trip to NYC and DC, with stops at museums, partly accompanied by my friends Christine Van Lenten and Sally Allen-Williams - old, old family friends from my childhood home of Mountain Lakes, NJ. One thing I realized on this trip is that the expanded MoMA, which I didn't like very much when it opened, has grown on me. Perhaps the museum, too, has figured out how to use it. I was back again in November and found that I really know my way around it now. The big and squarish gallery on the the top floor, the scene of a Munch show that reminded me of the Two Guys from Harrison discount store of my youth, has been tamed and more or less works. (The circulation still has its moments.) 

Elizabeth at the Guggenheim Bilbao.
Late August and the first half of September took us to Europe. I went first, stopping off in Dudley, near Birmingham, to see our son John and meet his family - Sally Wright and her sons Loz and Theo - then heading to London to see my friends Andrew Rabeneck (finally meeting Amy), Julie Bartlett, and two of the three Wigfall siblings, Nina and Tristan. I met up with Kathy in Paris and we headed for Bordeaux, where our daughter Elizabeth joined us. (Great city!) We stayed for a few days near Biarritz, then went into the French Basque country to a hotel-restaurant, Arce, in St. Etienne-de-Baigorry. After two days in Bilbao (the Guggenheim is really good), I flew back to SF and Kathy went on with our friends Sue and Marty Tierney to Lourdes and Saur. She then went on to Paris and to Dudley. Liz also split off in Bilbao, spending another month in Spain before returning to Berkeley.

Singapore view.
In November, I went back to Singapore after an absence of 60 years. This was through the auspices of Professor Bender, who arranged the chapter we wrote together (with Emily Marthinsen of UC Berkeley) for a book, Univer-Cities, edited by Anthony S.C. Teo of Nanyang Technological University, our host and the convener of a conference at which we spoke. It was interesting, this "extreme time lapse," but the feel of the place - the heat and the sounds of crickets and birds - came back to me. I also saw a handful of places that I remembered. Then I flew to Shanghai, which reminded me of LA in the late 1970s, in terms of air quality. It's a big, sprawling city, not like Tokyo or HK. While there, I saw my writer friends Mara Hvistendahl and Clare Jacobson, and met their writer friend Dan Keane. I hope to return soon (and to Singapore, too).

There were other "moments" along the way: getting our kitchen back after a six-month absence; attending a reunion at UC Berkeley CED of the students of Professor Horst Rittel (and running into Tom Thompson, a professor from my undergrad days in St. Louis); a visit from our son Ross and his friend Alison Powers in the summer; and Thanksgiving dinner with our son Michael and his family - Bojana and Conor - at their house a few blocks away. My sister's daughter Rachael Carnes, her husband Ben Brinkley, and their kids Jane and Hugh visited in the spring. I published a couple of book reviews, along with the book chapter. Kathy and her sister Laurie squared up their mother's house across the street - no small feat. I got a four-shaft loom and started weaving more complex patterns with it. I started using my iPhone to take photos, which is why they're sharper this year than last. And our garden, front and back, is taking shape after a big overhaul. Photos to come (next year).