COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Acquired Tastes

    SPRING IN BEIJING tends to erupt with malaise: Erratic climate shifts, sandstorms, and consecutive days of precious azure sky—aka APEC blue—elevate the weather from phatic conversation topic to, seemingly, a harbinger of some international-caliber event. In this case: the Third Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) and the first edition of Beijing Art Summit. Waling Boers, director of Boers-Li Gallery, surveyed the former’s agenda with a long-winded but endearing speech during the press conference: “If Berlin is considered ‘poor and sexy,’ maybe Beijing could be ‘a tastemaker and hot.’”

    Last Thursday’s

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  • Interviews

    Kameelah Janan Rasheed

    As the 2019 Katowitz Radin artist-in-residence at the Brooklyn Public Library, Kameelah Janan Rasheed has orchestrated Scoring the Stacks, a four-month-long project that fosters new dynamics between the library’s visitors and its books, between the roles of teacher and student, and between our notions of artist and artwork. Six accompanying public events invited participants to explore different ways to create, collaborate, and learn. Scoring the Stacks is on view at the library’s central location until April 7, 2019; Rasheed’s final event, This is Not an Artist Talk, will be held on April 4,

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  • Books

    STET! IN THE NAME OF LOVE

    Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. New York: Random House, 2019. 278 pages

    I DIDN’T TAKE ENGLISH IN COLLEGE. I tested out of it. And I was stoked. Filling out financial-aid forms, backing into a cop car, and getting ringworm all seemed infinitely preferable to reading about how to parse a sentence, and thus I did all of the former and none of the latter. Eventually I landed a series of jobs that required me to at least be able to explain what a dangling participle was; still, every time I look at a style book, I do so through wrath-narrowed eyes.

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  • Film

    LOST IN SPACE

    THE REVERENT ADEPTS of French director Claire Denis hold her work inviolable, finding in its every lapse and disaster new conduits to her unconscious, mistaking her films’ copious incoherence for visionary poetry and their recurrent absurdity for narrative daring. Like her compatriot Olivier Assayas, Denis cannot resist forays into genre filmmaking: the vampire-cannibal horror movie in Trouble Every Day (2001); the modernist puzzle picture in L’intrus (The Intruder, 2004); film noir in Les salauds (Bastards, 2013); and rom-com in Un beau soleil intérieur (Let the Sunshine In, 2017). From the

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  • Performance

    ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

    OPERA, CHARLES ROSEN ONCE WROTE, is governed by “the expectation of essential lunacy.” Its unrepentant feeling, its curling decor, its warbling inheritances, all these gilded artifacts of empire seem so far from the word’s Latin root, opus, which translates to “work,” that favorite American religion.

    The late operas of Michigan-born composer Robert Ashley (1930–2014) are staged with a dignified efficiency that seems at once to point backward to this etymology and to push the genre forward into the twentieth century. To begin a new presentation of Ashley’s 1985 Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) this

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  • Top Ten

    Raf Simons

    Raf Simons is a fashion designer based in Antwerp. His positions have included those of creative director of Jil Sander (2005–12), artistic director of Christian Dior (2012–16), and chief creative officer of Calvin Klein (2016–18). He continues to design for his eponymous label, Raf Simons, which he founded in 1995.

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  • Passages

    ROBERT RYMAN

    EVEN THOUGH I wrote several essays on Robert Ryman’s art, I hardly knew him. I did meet him a few times, but on each occasion he was rather reserved—extracting information or comments from him was like pulling teeth. My guess is that he was shy, even though other writers have been able to conduct remarkably rich interviews with him over the years: Obviously, I did not have what it takes. No matter, for he did not have to speak in order to make a statement. Eloquent silence.

    My first encounter with him is a case in point. It was during the installation of his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou

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  • Passages

    ROBERT RYMAN

    HAVE YOU EVER walked into a darkened room only to find that, once your eyes adjusted to the light, there was much to discover? Long ago, I wrote this about a particular Ryman painting, yet it is a feeling at the heart of what makes all of his artwork so remarkable. Often described as simply squares of white paint of various textures, Ryman’s paintings suggest a narrow focus. That focus, however, allows our attention to be more acute and sharpened, and what is actually offered is far from straightforward. What might at first seem simple turns out to be complex.  

    Ryman’s art is one of practical

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  • Passages

    ROBERT RYMAN

    I MET ROBERT RYMAN IN 2003, when I was a graduate student seeking out the would-be subject of my nascent dissertation. I had been curious, mostly, about the man whose ostensibly minimal paintings had already irrevocably altered my understanding of the medium. I was shocked to discover my West Village apartment was only a few blocks north of his studio, which was located in a tall, skinny building next to a then-empty parcel that I had long walked past without really noticing it. When I rang the buzzer, Bob appeared, bespectacled and well-groomed, framed through the window grille. I was a nervous

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  • Passages

    ALEX BROWN

    I MET THE PAINTER ALEX BROWN when I moved to New York City from San Francisco in 1996. We were set up on a kind of blind date by friends from his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, whom I’d known in SF. Among his Iowa friends, Alex had a certain legend attached to him. He’d moved to NYC, played guitar in various seminal hardcore bands (Gorilla Biscuits, Project X, Side by Side), produced a coveted zine called Schism, and almost immediately had an art career after graduating from Parsons.

    “I’ll be wearing a blue anorak,” he said to me on the phone, so I could identify him when we met. We were more

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  • Interviews

    1000 WORDS: TRENTON DOYLE HANCOCK

    TO GET ACQUAINTED with Trenton Doyle Hancock’s work—or, better yet, his world—is to become versant in an origin story that the artist first conceived of when he was in the fourth grade. As a precocious ten-year-old, Hancock drew Me Turning into Torpedoboy, 1984, a prescient sketch of his morally indifferent alter ego/superhero. But what crisis would precipitate his superhero’s journey? What crimes would he avenge? Growing up in an evangelical Baptist church, Hancock had assimilated sermons on Black-liberation theology that spoke of a spiritual war in which Manichaean precepts on race dictated

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  • Passages

    Kevin Roche (1922–2019)

    IF THE CONTEMPORARY ARTIST ASPIRES to channel the spirit of the modern world, the modern architect is in the business of, also, shaping that world. Kevin Roche succeeded at this more than most. Aligning himself with some of the most powerful systems of the twentieth century, Roche remade city blocks and skylines from Columbus to Kuala Lumpur. His firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, completed projects for the computing industry (IBM), advertising firms (Leo Burnett), chemical companies (Union Carbide), big pharma (Merck and Company), petroleum giants (Conoco), and banks (Deutsche

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