COLUMNS

  • Passages

    Lee Bontecou (1931–2022)

    Tony Towle remembers Lee Bontecou

    IN THE SPRING OF 1964, I attended a ballet in the newly opened New York State Theater. There was a sizeable horizontal sculpture (twenty-one feet wide, by about six feet high) mounted on the wall in the alcove behind the double stairways going up to the auditorium. It was striking and I looked for the artist’s name—Lee Bontecou—which I had not heard (but I was still new to the art world). The presence of the (Untitled) work was an uncanny combination of the mechanical and the avian, with an evanescent hint of menace.

    Two months later, toward the end of June, I took the train from New York out to

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  • Diary

    Office Politics

    A California state senator mounts an exhibition affirming trans lives

    WHEN LESBIAN AUTHOR and educator Diana Cage asked me if I’d like to accompany her to the opening of a “trans art show” at the offices of California State Senator Scott Wiener, I jumped at the chance. I have a soft spot for art presented outside the sanctioned white cubes of museums and galleries, but an official government site comes with its own baggage, its own set of priorities and prohibitions that an exhibit would have to grapple with. Diana and I had no clue what we were going to find, and that made the evening feel like an adventure.

    Presented on the occasion of Trans Awareness Week, “

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  • Film

    Horse Power

    Travis Jeppesen on the 59th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival

    ALTHOUGH THE GOLDEN HORSE traditionally serves as the most coveted launching pad for Chinese-language filmmaking, this year, because of political tensions that have boiled over into official policy, there was a noticeable absence of films from mainland China. Given the brain drain currently afflicting the major cultural capitals of the mainland and Hong Kong, traditionally the intellectual beating heart of the region, it seems obvious that Taiwan, with its rich and dynamic cultural landscape—including an outsized filmmaking tradition that can comfortably stand its ground alongside South Korea

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  • Interviews

    Himali Singh Soin

    The quantum entanglement of all mountains

    “Static Range,” Himali Singh Soin’s solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, invites viewers into a toxic, lovelorn nuclear landscape. The show draws its inspiration from a tragically absurd episode in Cold War history involving a four-pound plutonium device that the CIA and Indian Intelligence Bureau misplaced in the Himalayas. Building on a long-term project that counters official history by animating the nonhuman subjectivities at its margins, Soin utilizes poetry, music, animation, an artists’ book, textiles, and ceramics to speculate on ecological grief and climate catastrophe, as

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  • Film

    Empire State of Mind

    Sam Mendes’s humdrum ode to movie magic

    IF SAM MENDES’S VISION for Empire of Light was to pay tribute to the faded glory of moviegoing for the era of Covid and streaming behemoths, he could have stopped at the three-minute opening-credits sequence and released it as a standalone piece. Here, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s plaintive piano score plays as Roger Deakins’s camera observes the detritus of a multiplex in the morning: a turned-off popcorn machine, an unoccupied ticket booth, a dusty room stocked with projection equipment. Hilary Small (Olivia Colman), the duty manager at the Empire Cinema, on England’s South Coast, enters

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  • Books

    Class Acts

    Autonomia and the future of creative work

    AFTER THE FALL of Benito Mussolini’s government following World War II, a national referendum voted in favor of a republic. The ostensible rupture with Fascism, however, masked a continuity while cold warriors were largely content to let former Fascist Party functionaries hold governmental and corporate positions of power. Meanwhile, though left-wing parties gained national legitimacy after the Resistance, they increasingly favored the development of productive forces while stamping out revolutionary aspirations. In the early ’60s, during Italy’s so-called “economic miracle,” dissident Marxist

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  • Diary

    Never Enough

    Kaitlin Phillips around the 20th Art Basel Miami Beach

    LARRY GAGOSIAN DIDN’T FLY DOWN for the twentieth anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach. This was described to me by Vanity Fair’s art reporter Nate Freeman as “gossip.” And perhaps, were I an art reporter, it would strike me as such.

    At a cocktail party for the gallery, Derek Blasberg—Gagosian employee and career walker to underweight celebrities—was in his element, padding around Karlie Kloss’s twenty-three-million-dollar mansion barefoot. He joked about accidentally picking up plantar warts from the floor. “Europeans say it in a sexier way: verruca.” (Whether this is suspicious or not, I shan’t

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  • Diary

    Max’s Hammer

    The banal spectacle of buying a Beckmann

    IT TOOK TWO MINUTES and forty-eight seconds to settle on twenty million euros as the hammer price of the most expensive artwork ever sold in Germany. It was a self-portrait by Max Beckmann from 1943 that hung behind an impressively soft-spoken auctioneer on Thursday night. A piece of theater at once slight and dumbfounding, it was all very German. Grisebach, it said on the lectern in red sans-serif font that recalled the logo of the Deutsche Bahn. It is an unlikely house for such a sale, the kind usually taken to Manhattan or Mayfair. But we were in Charlottenburg, and the room was packed.

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  • Slant

    True Colors

    How should Ana Mendieta’s story be told?

    HERE IS WHAT WE KNOW: In 1979, Ana Mendieta, a young, up-and-coming artist fresh off a solo show at the feminist co-op A.I.R. Gallery, met the older, more famous Carl Andre, a so-called founding father of Minimalism. The artists embarked on a romantic and, by several accounts, tempestuous relationship. In 1985, Mendieta died after falling from the window of Andre’s thirty-fourth-floor apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village. He was tried, and acquitted, for her murder. Now eighty-seven, Andre—still living, somewhat astoundingly, in that same apartment—has carried on with his career, exhibiting

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  • Passages

    Aline Kominsky-Crumb (1948–2022)

    Dan Nadel on Aline Kominsky-Crumb

    I LOVED GETTING a FaceTime call from Aline, phone propped up so I could see her face and environs. Can you see my cozy bedspread? See my lamp? The wall color is nice! Cute, huh? In her home in the south of France she always seemed perfectly in tune with the colors and tones of the walls and furniture around her. 

    For such a quiet place, things in that remote village always felt like they were in motion. There were comings and goings, and Aline herself was a force of energy. At dinner she’d gesticulate and exclaim and oh it was fun. That vibrant, incredible energy. But when she was seated in public

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  • Books

    YVE-ALAIN BOIS ON DAVID YOUNG KIM’S GROUND WORK: A HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE PICTURE

    My nomination of either Paul Galvez’s Courbet’s Landscape: The Origins of Modern Painting or Benjamin Buchloh’s Gerhard Richter: Painting After the Subject of History would inevitably be dismissed as biased (the first author is my spouse, the second a very close friend), so I had to cast my net wide (and away from the modernist field) in order to find a book in which the close reading of specific works is as richly intertwined with the mapping of the cultural and epistemological context of their creation: David Young Kim’s Ground Work: A History of the Renaissance Picture (Princeton University

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  • Books

    HORACE D. BALLARD ON TONY HOAGLAND’S TURN UP THE OCEAN

    Tony Hoagland’s 2018 death from cancer hit me hard. My loss of an uncle, an aunt, my grandmother, a friend, and a beloved cousin soon followed—all this before 2020 and the historic, insurmountable loss we all share. Professors in undergrad had introduced me to Hoagland’s lupine, rhapsodic verse years earlier, and I clung to his poems in my grief. I was grateful for his loose caress of images through language reminiscent of 1970s honky-tonk and Lutheran hymns. I tell people I love him because he is a painterly writer, concerned with gesture and the palette of word choice. In truth, it’s the pining

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