Friday, April 18, 2014

Jill Krementz Photojournal: April 7th-13th, 2014

April 7th-13th, 2014 Photojournal

Monday, I attended the press preview of The Met's breath-taking exhibition: “Lost Kingdom,” which made me want to write a bit about my friend, the author Peter Matthiessen (a Zen Bhuddist monk), who had died only two days earlier from leukemia.

On Thursday I went up to the 92nd Street Y with Edward P. Jones, who had arrived that afternoon by train from Washington D.C. (where he lives) for an evening of readings by him and YiYun Li. Guests included Jane Beirn (HarperCollins), Dawn Davis, and author Veronica Chambers.

Kurt Vonnegut and Jill Krementz photographed by Saul Leiter on March 17, 1978.
The next evening, Friday, Edward walked over to my house and before heading for dinner he signed a book for Imani Thomas, a young friend of mine who often does her homework in the waiting room of my chiropractor, Dr. Adam Stanger, who conveniently lives next door.

Saturday I visited AIPAD at the armory where I was pleased to see Bruce Davidson, Michael Shnayerson with his sweetheart, Gayfryd Steinberg, Crary Pullen (Time-Life Books), and Jeff Rosenheim, Chief Curator of Photography at the Met. My main reason for visiting the Armory was to see the Howard Greenberg booth where I knew the photographs of Saul Leiter would be on display. Seeing the about-to-be-published double-volume book of his work was an unexpected pleasure — as was seeing the new book by Maira Kalman at Julie Saul.

Walking home, I passed by 59-60th and Lexington where  I saw the longest line of people extending all the way around the block ... they were all waiting for  Sprinkle cupcakes at an ATM. 

Palm Sunday there was a Memorial for Saul Leiter in the morning — speakers included Robert Benton — followed by an afternoon in the beautiful garden created by me and my late husband, Kurt Vonnegut, who died seven years ago on April 11th.

Press Preview at the Met. A ground-breaking international loan exhibition devoted to the Hindu-Buddhist art of first-millennium Southeast Asia is on view from April 14-July 27, 2014.

One of the most beautiful exhibitions I've ever seen.

Pictured are John Guy, Curator, Department of Asian Art, with Met Director, Thomas P. Campbell. Mr. Guy organized the exhibit.
At the entrance to the exhibition: Dharmachakra (Wheel of the Law), Central Thailand, 7th–8th century Probably found at Si Thep, Phetchabun province. Sandstone.

Some 160 sculptures are featured, many of them large-scale stone sculptures, terracottas, and bronzes. They include a significant number of designated national treasures lent by the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar, as well as stellar loans from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Funerary Casket of King Sihavikrama, Central Myanmar, late 5th–6th century.

This stone funerary urn is one of four excavated in 1911–12 at a royal burial site near Payagyi stupa outside the walls of the Pyu city Sri Ksetra.
The exhibit explores the sculptural traditions of the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms from the early 5th to the close of the 8th century in mainland and insular Southeast Asia.

This landmark exhibition is the first to present the religious art produced by a series of newly emerged kingdoms in the region, whose archaeological footprints lay the foundations for the political map of Southeast Asia today.
"Lost Kingdoms" has been organized thematically in seven sections representing the major narratives that have shaped the region’s distinct cultural identities.
Installation view.
Buddah calling the earth to Witness
Central Myranmar, ca. 8th century
Copper alloy with gilding
Head of Buddha
Southern Cambodia, 7th century
Probably from Anghor Borei region, Takeo Province

This over-life-size head of the Buddha is a testament to the grandeur of the monumental sculptural tradition in the Zhenla kingdom. It was carved from a sandstone characteristic of southern Cambodia, which is consistent with its stylistic assignment to Angkor Borei or a related site.

The Buddha has a strong, broad face, lightly modeled eyelids and pupils; and full lips that turn up at the corners in a hint of a smile. The hair curls, like those of other Buddhas of this period and region, are large and flat — a memory of the southern Indian style favored in the early period of contact.
Vishnu Mounted on Garuda
Central Vietnam, early 9th century Ngu Hanh Son, "Marble Mountain", Da Nang province, Vietnam.

The theme of Vishnu riding his celestial vehicle, the mythical eagle Garuda, was rarely represented in mainland Southeast Asia before the tenth century, when it became popular in Angkorian-period temple art.
Mike Hearn heads the Met's Asian Art Department; He curated the recent show: "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China."

All of the excellent labels and text panels were edited by the Met's Senior Editor Pamela Barr. Holland Cotter, the Times co-chief art critic, was sufficiently impressed to mention them in his write-up on the front page of Friday's Arts & Leisure section. His critique is worth reading.
Two Ganeshas.

In the inscriptions of seventh-century Khmer-speaking territories, Ganesha is consistently called by one of his more popular early names, Ganapati, or "lord of the ganas," Shiva's mischievous dwarfish helpers.

This is the largest seated Ganesha preserved from any Cham territory. Ganesha was almost universally represented without a crown; The work on the left is the only known exception. His elephant features are sensitively and naturalistically rendered and blend seamlessly into the anthropomorphic figure beneath. He also displays a rare feature, soon forgotten, the horseradish (mulakakanda), which recalls Ganesha's likely ancestry in early India as a god of agriculture.
Antefix with Male Head, Southern Vietnam, 7th century
Discovered between 1938–1945 at a local temple at Nui Sam village, Chau Doc District, An Giang Province, Vietnam during the course of an archaeological expedition in the Mekong Delta
Terracotta with polychrome and gilding
Lent by National Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Western Indonesia, 9th century
Found in central Java
Lent by Musée National des Arts Asiatiques–Guimet, Paris

The four-armed form of Avalokiteshvara was the bodhisattva par excellence. Summoned in times of peril, Avalokiteshvara as "Lord of the world," Lokeshvara, assumed a syncretic quality, merging Brahmanical and Buddhist notions of divine saviors.

While the bejeweled bodhisattva, the princely savior, was favored in India, an unadorned, ascetic-like figure was preferred in the seventh and much of eighth century in Southeast Asia. These representations display the bodhisattva dressed only in a simple cloth skirt, embodying the ascetic pursuit of spiritual perfection.

I know I shouldn't joke around but one can't help thinking of all of today's multi-taskers.
This sculpture of an 8th century guardian lion with a great mane framing its ferociously expressive face as if emitting a mighty roar, protected the stupa and its holy relics and embodies the "roar of the Buddha," the teachings heard across the world.

As the lion was unknown in mainland Southeast Asia, it no doubt assumed the same mythological status as other imaginary creatures. The face is fancifully realized, sculpted in wet stucco to achieve a sureness of line and fullness of form, with bulging eyes, flared nose, deeply furrowed brow, and cavernous mouth exposing teeth.

Lent by Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
David D'Arcy and his wife Elyse Topalian in the gift shop. Mr. D'Arcy writes for Art & Auction and for Art Newspaper; Ms. Topalian is Vice President for Communications at the Met.
Lost Kingdoms: this beautifully illustrated catalogue is a groundbreaking scholarly contribution to the history of the early cultures of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Spectacular photographs shot on location fill the pages, while texts by the most prominent scholars in the field address the key themes that unite many of the objects and provide important contextual background — a breathtaking introduction to a largely unknown tradition of early Hindu-Buddhist art.

336 pages; 360 illustrations, including 304 in full color; 8 maps; appendices; glossary; bibliography; index; Distributed by Yale University Press; Hardcover, $65.
I felt a real sadness at the Met that morning because Peter Matthiessen, a good friend of KV and mine — our Sagaponack neighbor — had died from leukemia on Saturday, April 5th. His obit by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt had appeared on page one of The New York Times on the previous date (Click here).

Matthiessen was a novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer, a co-founder of the literary magazine The Paris Review and a prominent environmental activist.

He was also a Zen Buddhist priest, and I could feel Peter's presence at my side walking through the galleries. His presence was everywhere, as indeed it will continue to be for those of us fortunate to have known him ... and to have read many of his 33 books.

It is its very evanescence that makes life beautiful, isn’t that true? If we were doomed to live forever, we would scarcely be aware of the beauty around us. Beauty always has that element of transience that is spoiled when we draw clumsy attention to it. The great haiku poet Basho wrote, "How blessed is he who sees the cherry blossoms fall and does not say, ‘Ah, time is passing." He has let go of all such concepts as time passing in order to enter deeply into this moment. — Peter Matthiessen
In the lobby of the Met are three of the over 260 eggs (designed by artists) hidden around the five boroughs as part of the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt running through April 17th. These three (from left to right) are by Enoc Perez, Chris Carnabuci (and Caiche Studio), and Pat Steir.

You won't want to miss Jeff Koons' egg at Rockefeller Center. It's on display there with over a dozen more created by Marc Quinn, Jill Ricci, Jason Polan, Cadogan Tate, Charles Lutz, Tamara Ellmallah, Mary Mattingly, Sarah Elise Hall and Clifford Ross. There's one more in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue.

All of the eggs stand about two-and-a-half feet tall. You are meant to download an app on your phone and swipe the bar codes on each installation (but I wouldn't try that at Saks).
THURSDAY, APRIL 10TH: Wonderful evening at the 92nd Street Y for readings by Edward P. Jones and YiYun Li.
YiYun Li signing the guest book. She is currently on tour publicizing her new book, Kinder Than Solitude.
Edward signs in.
Jane Beirn and Edward. Jane has been at HarperCollins for 25 years where she's VP, Senior Director of Publicity. She's one of the greats in publishing.
Dawn Davis, who worked with Edward on The Known World and later that evening introduced him on stage. It was Dawn who made that book such a big seller — pressing it into the hands of every bookseller she knew and sending it to every friend she had.
Dawn's notes for her introduction to Edward are in her hand. This is what she told the audience before he appeared on stage:

"What has been said about Edward's personal life has been reiterated a number of times. Many people have written of his sparsely furnished apartment and there have been more than a few allusions to his use of public transportation (he does not drive, you see). Thank God for that, I say — as public transportation figures into a few of his most moving stories, such as Blindsided.

"What surprises me is how little I've read about Edward's humor, which I think people miss because they focus instead on how shy or reticent they think he is. But even in his stories with these deeply complicated, often flawed characters working out how to live in situations that offer only filaments of hope, there are flashes of brilliant humor."
Among the distinguished guests: Veronica Chambers (pink jacket) — she was one of the writers in my book The Writer's Desk. She has recently collaborated with Robin Roberts on Robin's autobiographical memoir Everybody's Got Something (Grand Central Publishing; laydown date is Tuesday, April 22nd.) I got an advance copy and it's wonderful. Hello best seller.

Roberts will be at the 92nd Street Y "In Conversation with George Stephanopoulos" on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
Veronica Chambers as she appeared in my book The Writer's Desk, published by Random House in 1996. Veronica had just published Mama's Girl, her critically acclaimed memoir which has since then been course adopted by hundreds of high schools and colleges throughout the country.

It's no accident that so far, I've lived in the top floor of three walk-up buildings in Brooklyn. A friend of mine once compared me to a cat, saying I like to climb up high and feel like I'm king of all I survey. I often felt like that when I was writing Mama's Girl — I needed somehow to find a place, a perch that was high enough so I could look at this incredibly painful history with my family, especially my mother, and write about it. I was afraid of digging too deep. that somehow I could lose myself in all the hurt — like so much quicksand. So I would find high places to curl up like a cat — the loft in my apartment, the roof of my brownstone, even the kitchen counter. — Veronica Chambers
Edward Jones at the podium. He read two of his short stories including one of my favorites, Blindsided.
FRIDAY, APRIL 11TH: Imani Thomas, 10, is a fifth grader. She is often next door with her godmother Quara Wells, who is the assistant to Dr. Adam Stanger, a chiropractor whose office is on the block where I live. Very convenient since he is a magician.
According to her godmother, "Imani always has a book in her hands. She'd rather read a book than play with her cell phone and that's hard to find these days. She gets all A's. She asked Edward if he would come to her classroom but he had to say no because he lives in Washington, D.C. Otherwise trust me, he'd be there."
Later that evening, we had dinner at my favorite neighborhood bistro, Deux Amis, on 51st and First.
Joining us were Steve Mears and his friend Christine Stepanek. Edward used to live in Arlington, VA in the same apartment building as Steve's grandparents. Edward was in Apt. 915, .the grandparents in 914. 29 years ago, on March 21st, Edward heard the phone ringing at 4 AM through the wall. It was the call to Steve's grandparents saying he had been born. So it's a relationship that goes back a long way.

Steve is an astute film critic/historian with an MFA from Columbia. He's deciding whether to stay in NYC to write (and starve) or to pursue his doctorate given that a teaching career might be a more dependable profession in light of the current state of film criticism.

A nice way to spend the 7th anniversary of KV's death.
The three books by Edward P. Jones. Peter Matthiessen loved his work. The book on the left, The Known World, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
Edward P. Jones photographed by Jill Krementz on December 10th, 2006.

You're blessed with an imagination. You might as well use it.
— Edward P. Jones
That's Edward , framed and on my wall, along with Lawrence Durrell & Henry Miller, W.H. Auden & Anthony Hecht, Thornton Wilder, Saul Bellow, and Frank McCourt.

I wanted to drop by the AIPAD show (Association of International Art Dealers) because I knew that Howard Greenberg would be showing some of Saul Leiter's work and because Howard would be hosting Saul's memorial the following morning. Mr. Greenberg is largely responsible for Leiter's work coming to the attention of the American public.
The Leiter photographs above are titled Package, 1955, (left); Bus, New York, 1954 (right).
On display at the Howard Greenberg booth, "Interior" and "Exterior" a two-volume publication of Leiter's early black and white images in one slip case co-published by Steidl, Göttingen and Howard Greenberg Gallery that will be available soon. Sadly, not soon enough. I would have bought it on the spot.

The first volume contains an essay "Saul Leiter: In and Out of the New York School." Leiter, the son of a Talmudic scholar and linguist, was one of the few New York School photographers — the other was Helen Levitt — who can be said to have made contributions as color photographers that equal their black-and-white work. It is not irrelevant to know that two of Leiter's prime sources of inspiration were Vermeer and Picasso.

A documentary film profiling Leiter — "In No Great Hurry" by Thomas Leach — was released a few months ago and played on the Upper West Side and at film festivals around the country.
Saul Leiter's early black and white photographs are as innovative and challenging as his highly regarded early work in color. Breaking with the documentary tradition, Leiter responded to the dynamic street life of New York City with a spontaneity and openness that resulted in vibrant, impressionistic images that have the immediacy of an accomplished artist's sketch.

With his unconventional framing and nuanced use of light, shadow and tone, Leiter created images with a lyrical subtlety like no other photographer of his year, and brought the same sensibility to his intimate and frank portrayals of family members and friends. Early "Black and White" shows the impressive range of Leiter's early photography.
Eugene Smith, 1950
Diane Arbus, 1970
Saul Leiter, Self Portrait, 1949

Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburgh in 1923. He moved to New York in 1946 to become a painter but he was encouraged to pursue photography by the photographic experimentation and influence of his friend, the abstract expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart.

Leiter subsequently enjoyed a successful career as a fashion photographer spanning three decades, and his images were published in magazines such as Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, and British Vogue. His work is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the National Gallery of Art; the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Arts and many other prestigious public and private collections. Leiter died in November 2012.
Bruce Davidson stopped by Howard Greenberg. On display, a C-print by Davidson, $25,000 each, signed and from a limited edition of under ten. I wrote about him last week when I covered the Antiquarian Book Fair at the Armory where his book on 100th Street was on sale at Jeff Hirsch Bookseller.
Bruce Davidson with wife Emmy, their daughter Jenny and Jenny's children, Vove, (six -and-a-half) and James (ten-and-a-half). I love it when young kids are always so careful to add on that "half."
My life is full of Jeffs. Here's Jeff Rosenheim, the Chief Photography Curator at the Met Museum, with collectors Dee and Bruce Lunderg from Guilford, Connecticut. Gayfryd Steinberg and Michael Shnayerson. Michael is working on an unauthorized biography of Governor Cuomo due from Harper-Collins in 2015.
My next stop: Julie Saul where my friend Maira Kalman's new book and paintings "Girls Standing on Lawns" was on display.

Maira will be celebrated with a book signing at the Julie Saul Gallery (535 West 22 Street) from 6-8 PM on Wednesday, April 23rd.
Kalman is one of my favorite artists. She wants to trade one of my P.G. Wodehouse photos for one of her small gouaches. I am beyond thrilled.
Crary Pullen works at Time/Life Books. She used to be a photo editor at The New Yorker and then at Time magazine. Margery Newman handles the PR for AIPAD. She's always congenial and welcoming.
Louis Mendes works with a 1940 Press Camera and Polaroid film "I bought this at Willoughby's in 1955 for a little coffee money, about $20. Been using it ever since."
Twenty dollars ... and the only portrait of myself I've ever liked.
Walking South along Lexington Avenue I was delighted to pass by an ATM cupcake machine.
When I later mentioned how cool I was to my H'wood daughter, she told me they had been in Los Angeles for a year. "Sprinkles, right?" she said stifling a yawn. And so it was.
Lily confirmed somewhat patronizingly that the strawberry was the best. Well hahahahaha! That's exactly the flavor I had photographed.

A Memorial Service for Saul Leiter at Florence Gould Hall.
The front of the program with an illustration of Saul Leiter by Robert Weaver, © 1960.
The speakers. On the inside of the Memorial program: Saul and Soames, photograph © by Saul Leiter.
A montage of photographs of Saul was in the memorial booklet and others were projected onto the wall.
Saul with Henry Wolf (1925-2005), who gave Saul his first assignment at Esquire magazine. Henry was the Art Director and Bob Benton was Henry's assistant.

Henry would later move to Show Magazine where he was my mentor. He loaded my first Nikon for me and then unloaded it when I returned to the office. I had received the camera as a present for my 21st birthday and the directions were in Japanese. "This is like having a Rolls Royce and not knowing how to drive," Henry admonished me. In the early sixties I enrolled in the design class he taught with Milton Glaser at the School of Visual Arts and over the years he gave me various assignments. I would later dedicate one of my books to him.
Saul once said "Having lived my life I realize I don't know anything but how to make fried eggs"
Saul spent lots of time at the Strand.
Saul's paints.
And his brushes. Painting by Saul Leiter, Untitled, 1964
Self portrait and quotation from conversations with Adam Harrison Levy, 2009-2012.

"Part of the pleasure of being alive is that I didn't take everything as seriously as one should. Which leads you into trouble. But that's the way it is. Doing the proper thing gets to be very boring. I have at various points in my life been a very foolish person. But then I wasn't prepared for the world or how to deal with it. I look back on it now and know what I know, I'm astonished at the carefree way I went into certain things."
"I didn't manage my life carefully and believe I was responsible for many of my troubles. I was foolish and impractical. And that's the way I was and I will always be that way. I took some nice photographs and I made some nice paintings. I wasn't a complete bust."
Saul once said: "Don't think too much. Clever people are like a grocer who weighs everything."
Margit Erb and Saul. Margit is now sorting through everything in Saul's apartment.
Pianist Adrianne Kim.
On the left: the first page of the memorial book (Saul Leiter, 1928). On the right: one of the projected photos.

It was one of the best memorials I've ever attended. We will not soon see the likes of our dear friend Saul Leiter.
Benton reminisced about the day in 1955 when Saul showed up at the office of Esquire to see Henry Wolf. "I was working for Henry then. When Saul arrived I I looked up and saw an unmade bed. He had brought in a few slides — they were in a yellow box held together with a rubber band. Henry loved his work and gave him a lot of work shooting for the magazine. Over the years Saul and I drank so much coffee together I'm amazed I didn't die of caffeine poisoning. When I succeeded Henry as art director I gave Saul an assignment and he walked out. He really didn't like working on assignment except when he had to."

I am a religious man and I think that Saul's heaven is the Strand Bookstore.
Philippe Laumont and his girlfriend Sam Prangley. Mr. Laumont is a master printer.

"Twenty years ago Saul slipped into my studio wearing a safari jacket and holding a yellow slide box. He was wanting to make some color prints of his work from the '50s — of everyday New York street life in the East Village where he lived. Leiter worked in Cibachrome, which was ideal for his work. They were quirky compositions informed by a painter's eye and there were lots of pictures of umbrellas.

"Saul was a man who shunned fame and heroics. He had a genuine interest in others. It was as if this son of a Rabbi lived by a Zen canon: To be in a state of pleasant confusion is sometimes very satisfying."
Howard Greenberg, on the right, greets Ellen Mandel and Michael Landon at the reception following the memorial service. Ellen is a composer/pianist and her husband Michael is a singer/songwriter who has published a book about Ray Charles. They have a small work space on 10th street just below the apartment where Saul (and Soames until she died) lived.

Howard spoke earlier saying, "I met Saul about 20 years ago. I went to his apartment and sat on a box. I asked him if I could do a show of his work." "It can't be too bad," he replied.

Greenberg would subsequently do a second show. "Why did it take so long for Saul to be recognized is hard to answer but it's so great that he lived long enough to be fully acknowledged."

One cannot minimize the importance of Howard Greenberg and all that he did for Saul Leiter bringing his work to the attention of the American public.
Margrit Erb and Ali Price (who used to work at Greenberg) looking at the beautiful commemorative booklet produced for the memorial service ... a keepsake for all of us.
The Benton Family. John is a filmmaker and writer. Sallie is a well-known artist — her solo show of paintings and drawings is on view at Chelsea's First Street Gallery through April 26th. Robert is, of course, the screenwriter and film director. "Benton," as his wife calls him, is now 80. He won two Oscars in 1979 for "Kramer vs. Kramer," (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director) and a third in 1984 for "Places in the Heart" (Best Original Screenplay).
Contact Sheet of photographs taken Friday, March 17, 1978. Some of the photos are by Saul Leiter of JK and KV and some are by JK of Saul. Photographs © by Jill Krementz and Saul Leiter.
Saul Leiter photographed by Jill Krementz at our house on March 17, 1978. He had come over for an afternoon of coffee and schmoozing.
Photograph of Kurt and me by Saul Leiter on that same afternoon, March 17, 1978.
PALM SUNDAY AFTERNOON: A meditation in the garden.

KV always loved hiding Easter eggs among the artifacts and flowers for our daughter Lily. As you all know Lily is now the mother of Jack and I'm guessing they're busy tattooing hard-boiled eggs — just like her parents did when she was little. Warning: Put those peeps and jelly beans on hold for another few years!

We named our daughter Lily for the obvious reason.
Kurt loved adding statuary to our gardens ... here and in Sagaponack.
A frog, a holy man, a piece of drift wood, and a funny bird found by Kurt.
Lulu enjoying spring on Palm Sunday.
We collected angels. KV drew this heart with our initials on soft cement in 1974.

This photojournal is in memoriam of my dear husband who died on April 11th.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.