2007 running into 2008

In a long-standing family tradition, I’m starting my “Christmas” letter late, on New Year’s Day. This has been a year of reflection on family and values, so maybe it’s appropriate. My father died in July and that leaves the “Dave Clarke Five” as the older generation. We celebrated his life with a memorial at the Alfred church and later, after dark, had a bonfire up at my brother’s house on the hill above the village.

At the library, system migration stretches into its umpteenth year and a dozen years in one job is a long time for me. This, on top of turning 61 and thinking about what makes life meaningful in light of my father’s death, has led me to more seriously contemplate retirement than I previously have. After the early August memorial, I spent a week with my brother and his wife and son, dreaming of running a bookshop and sitting on the deck at their rustic house, looking over the hills of western New York. I take my privilege as a Gemini to have parallel existences so the dreaming was paralleled by the continuing life in New York City and elsewhere.

The year 2007 brought its normal busy-ness and business, and art viewing and travel. I took a quick trip to Boston just before New Year’s and then a weekend in Washington just after: the new Institute of Contemporary Art building in Boston and the Flemish diptychs at the National Gallery of Art, and visiting Bill Connor and Sherry and Woody Kelley. Just before going to Washington, I’d seen the Simryn Gill show at Tracy Williams Gallery and Gill also had an installation at the Sackler Gallery in Washington. When Sherry and I went to the Sackler, we got to see a guy setting up his wedding proposal in a vitrine in the stairhall.

Mid-January brought ALA Midwinter in Seattle, with the usual round of meetings and seeing friends and colleagues. The development of the new cataloging rules (Resource description and access) has rather overwhelmed cataloging discussions, moving with glacial momentum. MARBI discussions of expanding the MARC format have been more exciting.

College Art Association met in New York City in February. There was a touching memorial gathering for Tee Corinne, my erstwhile co-editor for the Queer Caucus for Art newsletter. CAA also means getting to hear some good papers, some expected and some not.

March brought a short trip to Los Angeles for a meeting at the Getty about Cataloging cultural objects. I stayed with Steve Ong, the surviving partner of Ed Armstrong. Steve and Ed had lived in New York but moved to L.A. about 2000. Steve and I shared lots of good memories of Ed, and I sat in Ed’s seat at Disney Concert Hall for a delightful organ concert.

Later in March, I went to Kansas City for the VRA annual conference. K.C. was really wonderful. I was staying at a guesthouse a dozen blocks from the conference hotel so got in lots of wandering around town. There’s a wonderful new printing plant near downtown and we got into the new building of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, designed by Steven Holl. Wonderful light. The new gallery spaces weren’t open but you could see the library if someone was available to take you to that space. The catalogers were in the basement (as usual) but behind a glass wall that felt friendly and open. I was part of a panel that went well and I heard an exciting paper on Flickr tagging by Megan Winget.

ARLIS met in Atlanta at the beginning of May. Before the conference started, Daniel Starr, Elizabeth Lilker and I went on our own driving tour to Athens. We had a lovely day including a multicultural parade of school children in Conyers, lunch at a soul food joint in Athens, and ice cream at a former bank with a terra cotta façade from ca. 1900 in Madison. The panel I organized on the junction of controlled vocabulary and social tagging went well, with lively discussion. At the reception at the High, they had a Jenny Holzer bench with the quotation I’ve had in my commonplace book for many years. When I was talking to Sueyoung Park about the panel and my thoughts on Walter Benjamin and us all being authors in the era of blogging and social computing, she described me as post-post-structuralist. I can’t sling the lingo well but that was amusing. Michiel Nijhoff and I had a nice visit to the Carter Library and then a beer at one of the high places in downtown Atlanta with much looking out about the city.

After a few days back in NYC, including a weekend with serendipitous visits to seven bookshops, I left for Switzerland with my friend Mac (Robert McDonald). He and I started in Zürich, giving ourselves a couple days of relatively slow agendas to settle after the overnight flight. I saw a nice show of Neues Bauen architecture at the Museum für Gestaltung and enjoyed the beaux-arts villas along the lake. The Erik van Lieshout show at the Kunsthalle was interesting too. We went to Sankt Gallen next and really enjoyed the Abbey Library. It was fun to figure out the “classification” scheme, really a shelving arrangment probably based on accession. There was an organ concert one evening at the abbey church: wonderful music and great light as the sun set. We took a day trip from Sankt Gallen to Liechtenstein and got a pretty stamp in our passports and enjoyed climbing up to the ducal castle. Our Swiss rail passes covered the bus into Vaduz. After Sankt Gallen, we went to Chur and had a lovely attic room which looked out on the castle and cathedral. You could hear cowbells tinkling from the window. We took the Bernina Express from Chur through the Alps, to Lugano. We both fell in love with Lugano, where we coincidentally stayed at the same hotel that Bob and I had stayed in in 1985 or 1986. One day, I took a day trip to Como, Italy to see the Casa Terragni. Wow! It’s incredible. In Lugano, I saw a good show of Georg Baselitz’s art and enjoyed walking up to the “Castle” which may be a Coppedè design. We both went up the funicular to Monte Brè and had a delicious campari and soda while overlooking the lake and city. From Lugano up to Basel, with daytrips to La Chaux de Fonds to see Le Corbusier buildings and to Weil am Rhein to see the Vitra Design Museum. The new Schaulager exhibition hall is wonderful and they had a Robert Gober show. The Antikenmuseum had a good exhibit of Thracian gold and there was an intriguing show of architecture in found spaces at the Architekturmuseum. I’d been to the Beyeler ten years or so ago and it still looks really good: perhaps my favorite museum building by Renzo Piano. The Ferdinand Hodler stairhall at the Kunstmuseum is really handsome. And then back to Zürich for a last night at an airport hotel and the return home. A longer version of the Swiss travelogue may be found under “miscellany” on my artcataloging.net website.

June brought ALA Annual in Washington. In addition to the normal round of collegiality and meetings, I did get in visits to the Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery, and some other museums. On my last day, before catching the train, I ran into John Maier and Jacquelyn Coutré at two different museums. John has been sharing a house in Ridgewood (Queens) with another couple for some years; the other family is moving out of NYC and I contemplated buying out their half of the rowhouse. While that would have meant considerably more space, perhaps even room to bring most of my books down from Alfred, my ambivalence about NYC/Alfred and retiring led me to decide not to join. And the bank probably would have laughed at me.

The later part of the summer brought several trips upstate, before and after my father died. My siblings and I had some very dear moments together and we were all able to be in Alfred for a couple days at Christmas time. At church, Pastor Pat Bancroft told us to “savor time” in her reflections on time and the new year.

Some time ago, my brother put some pictures up on Facebook and invited me to join. I did and enjoyed the pictures but didn’t indulge much in other Facebook stuff at first. Quite a few friends and colleagues have set up accounts so I’ve now done some stuff there. My favorite part however is the iRead application, wherein you list books you’ve read, are reading, or “wanna read.” As an avid and eclectic reader, I am amused to see the potpourri of others. If you are on Facebook and want to be my Friend, or you aren’t and want to be invited, please let me know. Social computing is intriguing to me and that is part of the attraction of running a bookstore. We have built such complicated library catalogs with the complexity not necessarily expediting access; some of the “open” and social opportunities are enticing.

Culture, travel and interacting with friends are of course interwoven through all of the things mentioned above. There have been many high moments but also some low. Below are some of the other special things that moved me this past year:

art: shrinking cities at Pratt; Simryn Gill show at Tracy Williams Gallery and at Sackler Gallery in Washington; Flemish diptychs at National Gallery of Art; Josef Hoffmann interiors at the Neue Galerie; “The constant possibility of erasure” and “Seeing things” at Dorsky; Martin Puryear at MoMA; Kenny Harris paintings at George Billis; the Doug Aitken video installation at MoMA (especially the night I was leaving the library after my moonlighting gig and Tilda Swinton was looking at me from across the garden); Museo de Reproducciones Fotográficas at Triple Candie; Nina Katchadourian and Rick Moody at Proteus Gowanus; refurbished Greek and Roman galleries at the Met (especially the mezzanine of open storage); Anna Barham’s “Leptis Magna” at Bondakar; Tom Burr/Walter Pfeiffer installation at the Swiss Institute; Darren Lago’s “Inappropriations” at Maxwell Davidson; Miwon Kong lecture on Cai Guo-Qiang; Francis Alÿs installation at Hispanic Institute

architecture: Gehry building already being copycatted in hotel on Bowery; walking and subway tour of daylight factory buildings in Long Island City; tour of Modulightor building by Paul Rudolph

books: Lincoln’s melancholy (Shenk); Population: 485 (Perry); Travels with Herodotus (Kapuscinski); Fish (Parsell); My one-night stand with cancer (Katan); Three farmers on their way to a dance (Powers); The Lone Ranger and Tonto fistfight in heaven (Alexie); Four seasons in Rome (Doerr); We wish to inform you that tomorrow you will be killed with your families (Gourevitch); Blood meridian (McCarthy); The sign of the cross (Tóibín); The echo maker (Powers); Loving Frank (Horan)

music: Osvaldo Golijov (recordings of “Ainadamar” and “Oceana”)

film: Agnes Martin “With my back to the world”; Kiki Smith “Squatting the palace”; “Darjeeling Limited”; “Contact”; “Helvetica”

theater: “Marat/Sade” at Classical Theatre of Harlem; “Art of memory” at Ontological

So that’s my review of 2007. I hope the new year finds you and yours with hope and in good health, in spite of continued war and unrest around the world, in spite of The New York times cutting two inches off its width.

... go to Sherman's miscellany page ...