• Books

    Free Association

    On Brian Dillon’s Affinities

    Affinities: On Art and Fascination. By Brian Dillon. New York Review of Books, 2023. 320 pages.

    IN THE EARLY WEEKS of the pandemic, I became obsessed with maps of New York City. Cloistered in my apartment in upper Manhattan, I would stare at the subway map for hours, studying every stop on every line. I would wander around Brooklyn on Google Maps, memorizing the order of avenues and streets. I played quizzes where you would look at photographs taken on the street and have to guess the neighborhood. It must have seemed like a sad way to pass the time, but the obsessive scrutiny seemed important.

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  • Books


    James Meyer on Yve-Alain Bois’s An Oblique Autobiography

    An Oblique Autobiography, by Yve-Alain Bois; ed. Jordan Kantor. San Francisco and New York: no place press, 2022. 376 pages.

    THE PUBLICATION of Yve-Alain Bois’s latest book marks a watershed in the oeuvre of this influential scholar. What is the place of this most personal (and most surprising) of Bois’s publications in the arc of a career that extends from his cofounding of the groundbreaking journal Macula in the mid-1970s to teaching positions at Johns Hopkins and Harvard to his tenure as professor at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies, a position he held from 2005 to 2022? What insights

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  • Film


    James Quandt on Cyril Schäublin’s Unrest

    HOW SWISS IS IT? Cyril Schäublin, who joins the Zürcher brothers as one of the leading auteurs of the first major wave of Helvetian filmmaking since the heyday of Alain Tanner and Daniel Schmid half a century ago, appears determined in his first two features to demolish the myth of Swiss probity, especially in the echt Schweizer realms of finance and industry. Schäublin made his brilliant debut with the ironically titled Those Who Are Fine (2017), about a young worker at a Zurich call center hawking internet services to vulnerable seniors—the provider’s portentous name is Everywhere

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  • Slant


    John Ganz on Gerhard Richter

    IN MARCH, New York’s David Zwirner opened its first solo exhibition of Gerhard Richter’s work since the painter’s defection to the megagallery from Marian Goodman, his gallerist of thirty-seven years. The show featured fourteen of his last paintings, completed in 2016 and 2017, made before the artist, now ninety-one, declared his retirement from painting. It also contained seventy-six drawings—the products of the practice that replaced the physically arduous process of painting for Richter—and a single glass-and-steel sculpture. If one were looking for a kind of retrospective, or a coda and

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  • Diary

    Price of Entry

    Hiji Nam around Manhattan

    LAST FRIDAY AFTERNOON at David Zwirner, Benjamin Buchloh was heralding Gerhard Richter as the painter-inheritor of twentieth-century History. Then he added: “Will his paintings have lasting reverberations like the urinal? Probably not.” An ambivalent aperitif of a speech to kick off the evening. Later that night, around the corner at Petzel, Seth Price unveiled his large-scale paintings impeccably mixing 3-D graphics, abstraction, and AI-generated representation, in his first New York solo show in five years, only the second time in nearly a decade he’s exhibited new work. They looked small in

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  • Books

    Mortal Coil

    Resurrecting Robert Smithson

    Inside the Spiral: The Passions of Robert Smithson. By Suzaan Boettger. University of Minnesota Press, 2023. 440 pages.

    ASTONISHINGLY, it has taken fifty years since his death for a “life” of Robert Smithson to emerge. Then again, the endlessly polysemous nature of Smithson’s art, the vertiginous heap of writing on him already out there, and his own profound ambivalence toward the very enterprise of history—collective and personal—make him a rather daunting subject. The prospective Smithson biographer, over the winding course of her inquiry, must advance despite so many taunting aphorisms like

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  • Passages

    Vivan Sundaram (1943–2023)

    Rattanamol Singh Johal on Vivan Sundaram

    ON A CRISP NIGHT IN NEW DELHI last December, I made my way to Vivan Sundaram’s brutalist bungalow, nested in a leafy garden and casually adorned with some of the most iconic exemplars of Indian modernism: his aunt Amrita Sher-Gil’s melancholic young women, his friend Bhupen Khakhar’s playfully awkward watch repairman, Nasreen Mohamedi’s rigorous lines, and Vivan’s own portentous portrait of his maternal family which was recently installed in the sitting room. As I took in the work’s commanding scale and muted palette, Vivan and his partner—the influential critic-curator Geeta Kapur—emerged from

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  • Passages

    Kwame Brathwaite (1938–2023)

    Deborah Willis on Kwame Brathwaite

    KWAME BRATHWAITE WAS FAMILY! He taught me about the possibilities of photography and what it means to document everyday life in Harlem. The last time I saw Kwame was at Melba’s Restaurant on a Sunday afternoon with his family. All the church folks were there. He and his wife greeted me as they always did with a welcoming smile. Kwame’s warmth and compassion for community guided me to a phrase I call upon often: “Art teaches us that every life has value.”

    In 1969, I moved from Philadelphia to New York City to study at the Germain School of Photography in Lower Manhattan. The first photographer I

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  • Books

    Spirited Away

    Who painted Hilma af Klint’s otherworldly visions?

    Anna Cassel: The Saga of the Rose. Edited by Kurt Almqvist and Daniel Birnbaum. Bokförlaget Stolpe, 2023. 182 pages.

    ANNA CASSEL: THE SAGA OF THE ROSEa sumptuously designed book by the same publisher of the seven-volume, thirty-eight-pound Hilma af Klint Catalogue Raisonné, is not only an astonishing revelation of a heretofore unknown visual artist, but one whose recently discovered participation in the creation of Hilma af Klint’s renowned “Paintings for the Temple” necessitates a reconceptualization of this pioneering work, and hence a corrective to the history of modernism itself as it

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  • Music

    Muse of Fire

    The phonopoetics of Fred Moten, Brandon López, and Gerald Cleaver

    THIS MONTH, a year to the day since the release of their debut album, the trio of Fred Moten (poet), Brandon López (bassist), and Gerald Cleaver (drummer) came to London for a weekend residency at Café Oto. Recorded during the Covid pandemic at New York’s GSI studios and released on the Reading Group label, the group’s self-titled album exemplifies what Anthony Reed, in his book Soundworks, has called “phonopoetics,” a more capacious term than previous indicators like “jazz poetry.”

    During its flourishing from what Reed calls the “Long Black Arts Movement,” peaking in the ’60s, the phonopoem has

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  • Slant

    Grave Encounters

    Artist’s portfolio: Scott Covert

    THAT GLITTERING CHRISTMAS at Holy Cross Mortuary in Culver City, California, toward the end of 1999—it was the last Christmas of the twentieth century.

    The cemetery is a massive site with rolling green hills and the occasional tree. Throughout the park is a patchwork quilt of flat granite or brass grave markers with the name of the rotting person beneath. Sometime before the holiday, the sprawling green pastures metamorphosed into a Winter Wonderland under the desert sun. You could see garlands in red and green, and reflective tinsel in virtually every color. There was a Santa’s workshop set up

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  • Performance

    Last Act

    Every Ocean Hughes’s art of dying

    DID VIRGINIA WOOLF drown herself in the Ouse because of the poetry of the act—the river as a passage between life and death—or because it seemed to her the most practical method available? Likely both. Rivers have always evoked otherworldly crossings. The Styx of Greek mythology, the Sai-no-Kawara of Japanese folklore, the west bank of the Nile of Ancient Egypt—all were envisioned as gateways to the afterlife. There is something about the constancy of river water, traveling beyond sight or into the vastness of an ocean, that reminds us of our own impermanence. It’s comforting to render death

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