This week: Amit Majmudar, Yvonne Jacquette, C. P. Cavafy, Rachmaninoff, a Fifth Avenue mansion & more.

Yvonne Jacquette, Open Door, Tin Ceiling, 1969, Acrylic on canvas, DC Moore Gallery. On view in “Yvonne Jacquette: Looking Up/Down/Inside/Out.”


Black Avatar and Other Essays, by Amit Majmudar (Acre Books): “You aren’t what others perceive you to be,” writes Amit Majmudar in the title essay of his newest book: “You are what you remember.” Such a definition poses a double challenge for any student of history—and Majmudar is certainly one—as the weight of cultural memory comes to bear on the personal. The observation comes in the opening to the wide-ranging “Black Avatar,” a fifteen-part essay on Hindu colorism centered on the god Krishna (literally “black” in Sanskrit) and framed by the author’s childhood travels from Ohio to Gujarat, India, and back again. Eschewing the facile, euphemistic language that characterizes so much writing on the subject of skin color, Majmudar weaves together memoir, religious learning, and literary criticism to produce a brilliant meditation on its role in Hindu culture and beyond. Rounding out the collection are shorter but no less insightful essays on the Ramayana, war photography, idolatry, Marcus Aurelius, and more. —RE


Yvonne Jacquette, Back of Barn, 2022, Oil on linen, DC Moore Gallery, New York. On view in “Yvonne Jacquette: Recent Views, Maine & New York.”

“Yvonne Jacquette: Looking Up/Down/Inside/Out” & “Yvonne Jacquette: Recent Views, Maine & New York” on view at DC Moore Gallery, New York (May 4–June 10): For Yvonne Jacquette, the realist painter who died on April 23 at age eighty-eight, point-of-view was very much the point of her view. While Jacquette became best known for her glittering cityscapes, painted looking out of skyscraper windows, including those of the former World Trade Center, her distinctive POV could be widely circumspect. Opening this Thursday at DC Moore Gallery, double-header exhibitions will give us their own windows onto her unique vision while also paying tribute to her creative legacy. Organized with her son Tom Burckhardt in the months before her death, “Yvonne Jacquette: Looking Up/Down/Inside/Out” and “Yvonne Jacquette: Recent Views, Maine & New York” present intimate interior still-lifes alongside her latest and last landscapes from her homes in New York and Maine. —JP


A photograph of C. P. Cavafy, taken in Alexandria in 1929. C. P. Cavafy Archives, Onassis Foundation. 

 “Waiting for the Barbarians,” performed by various artists and hosted by Death of Classical at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York (May 2): So many of C. P. Cavafy’s (1863–1933) poems are dramatic monologues, deeply rooted in history and yet also temporally multifarious. When he counsels Mark Antony in a poem of 1910, “When suddenly at darkest midnight heard/ the invisible company passing, the clear voices/ . . . With courage say your last good-byes/ To Alexandria as she is leaving,” his advice echoes across the centuries of travelers, warlords, and exiles that have brought countless changes and stories to and from the Bride of the Mediterranean. Even after Cavafy’s death, these voices still resonate: Lawrence Durrell, who translated those words, felt a pang for “Alexandria as she is leaving” when in 1945 he bid the city farewell, soon to be followed by many of the city’s cosmopolitan and minority residents in the years after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. A bevy of composers and musicians, assisted by The Knights and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, will attest to those resonances this Tuesday in a concert of new music inspired by and adapting Cavafy’s poetry at Saint Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, part of a citywide festival celebrating Cavafy organized by the Onassis Foundation through May 6. —IS


The Clarion Choir.

The Clarion Choir performs Rachmaninoff at Carnegie Hall (May 5): In my family record collection there is an old LP of Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil by Alexander Sveshnikov and the State Academic Russian Choir from 1965. It clearly had pride of place in its previous owner’s library: almost thirty years of newspaper clippings and programs referring to the Vigil fill the LP box, starting with a 1976 performance at the Washington National Cathedral with an American choir. That 1976 performance, its program tells me, was to be recorded and broadcast (illicitly) to the Soviet Union, where the performance and recording of this jewel of Orthodox church music was banned under anti-religious law. But then how did Sveshnikov’s recording get made? Well, it was only to be used for private academic study—and, eventually and ironically, to make money on the foreign market, where the demand for this recording’s spacious acoustics and authentic Russian bass voices was great. I encourage you to listen to Sveshnikov’s defining turn at the piece and to go hear the Clarion Choir, one of the leading American practitioners of Rachmaninoff’s choral works, perform it at Carnegie Hall this Friday evening. —IS


The James B. Duke House. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Book Launch: “Duke House and the Making of Modern New York,” at the Institute of Fine Arts (May 8): Not all the great Fifth Avenue mansions met the sorry fate of the Brokaw House at East Seventy-ninth Street, which spurred the landmarks law in New York. Just one block down, the James B. Duke House stands stately as ever. No longer a private home, the Duke House contains NYU’s graduate art-history school, the Institute of Fine Arts. Next Monday the IFA will host a book-launch event for a new title exploring the Duke House’s varied history, from its original residential design by Horace Trumbauer to its adaptation as a space for learning. BR

In the news:

“Peter Thiel Tells Black-Tie NYC Audience That Diversity Is a Distraction”
Amanda L. Gordon, Bloomberg Wealth

From the Archives:

“Without rancor: Sybille Bedford’s achievement,” by Roger Kimball (April 1994). On Sybille Bedford’s writing.


“Sakartvelo serenade,” by Jane Coombs. On “Mostly B,” a program by the State Ballet of Georgia at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, New York.

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