COLUMNS

  • Passages

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919–2021)

    I FIRST GOT NEWS of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s passing in a message from Tara Marlowe, a daughter of the late Diane di Prima. Along with poet Sara Larsen, I had been deep into helping out on two books by Diane for City Lights for the past several years: a new edition of the classic Revolutionary Letters (1968) and the extraordinary 1964 prose work, Spring and Autumn Annals. While Lawrence’s death was not, in any sense, “unexpected,” given that he was about to turn 102, it still felt acute and abrupt since he had been such an immovable fixture in the life of poetry, publishing, and civic cultural

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  • Interviews

    Xinyi Cheng

    Xinyi Cheng, winner of the 2019 Baloise Art Prize, painted much of what is currently on view at Berlin’s Hamburger Banhof last spring, during France’s first Covid-induced lockdown. Her intimate-yet-detached gaze, previously applied to male figures in ambiguous encounters, is here trained on moments of solitude among men, women, and animals. The Horse with Eye Blinders—an enigmatic double portrait of a chestnut mare clad in red cap, ear hoods, and blinders and a young man with his arms folded across his bare chest—gives this exhibition its title. Born in Wuhan and raised in Beijing, Cheng is now

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  • Books

    Mutual Understanding

    Disasters and Social Reproduction: Crisis Response Between the State and Community, by Peer Illner. London: Pluto Press, 2020. 208 pages. 

    Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During this Crisis (and the Next), by Dean Spade. New York and London: Verso, 2020. 128 pages. 

    IN ONE OF photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White’s most iconic Depression-era images, a seamless, whitewashed vision of the good life is undercut by a segregated breadline. Tightly composed, the picture almost stages a return of the repressed, as material casualties of “the American Way” buttress—but also contravene—the billboard’s

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  • Books

    Style Counsel

    The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, by Thomas Crow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. 200 pages.

    THOMAS CROW’S NEW VOLUME, The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, is a meticulous account of the imbrications between artmaking and stylemaking in postwar London, flanked by a jeremiad against what its author perceives as received ideas in contemporary art history. Indeed, Crow’s street-level method—we are treated to a litany of place names, hairstyles, and vivid descriptions of magazines—is part and parcel of his complaint: If art is to be meaningful, Crow seems to insist,

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  • Film

    The Lives of Others

    JAMES BENNING HAS SAID that when he first started making films, in the early 1970s, he was “like a folk artist.” Although he later completed an MFA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he initially came to his medium with no formal training in art or cinema. What he did have were two degrees in mathematics, an education critics often mention when accounting for the metric rigor of Benning’s celebrated 16-mm films, such as TEN SKIES, 2004, comprising ten ten-minute static takes of the Southern California firmament, and One Way Boogie Woogie, 1977, composed of sixty one-minute shots of industrial

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  • Top Ten

    Tavares Strachan

    Tavares Strachan is a multimedia artist who works in New York and in his hometown of Nassau in the Bahamas. His art explores subjects such as aeronautics, astronomy, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology, and has been featured in the Biennale de Lyon (2013), the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (2018), and the Venice Biennale (2013 and 2019). He is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, where he will have a solo show in May 2022.

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  • Interviews

    1000 Words: Lorraine O’Grady

    NEW WORK BY LORRAINE O’GRADY is already good news, and the world needs some. But word of a new persona stirs the kind of anticipation usually reserved for a famous comet rounding the sun. It’s been more than forty years since O’Grady’s radiant alter ego Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, dressed in a gown and cape made from 180 pairs of white thrift-store gloves and wielding a cat-o’-nine tails plaited with chrysanthemums, stormed the opening of “Outlaw Aesthetics” at New York’s Just Above Midtown gallery. On that day, June 5, 1980, O’Grady kicked off a three-year sprint of some of the most profound

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  • Interviews

    1000 Words: Arnold J. Kemp

    IN ANTICIPATION of his solo exhibition “False Hydras” at JOAN in Los Angeles, Arnold J. Kemp sat down with me in Chicago to continue our dialogue on the means and meanings of Black queer and feminist critical practice in the age of the internet. A teacher, writer, curator, and artist, Kemp occupies multiple cultural roles, which are paralleled by the range of materials and media—drawing, painting, performance, poetry, photography, installation, sculpture—that have both intellectually informed and physically shaped his practice over the past thirty years. Yet as our conversation made clear,

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  • Passages

    Chen Cheng Mei (1927–2020)

    CHEN CHENG MEI, who died last December at the age of ninety-three, will be most remembered as the woman behind the Ten Men Art Group. This loose collective of Singapore-based artists made work inspired by their travels around Southeast Asia in the 1960s, and China and India during the 1970s, marking a decisive turn toward a distinctly regional sensibility in Southeast Asian artistic practice and exploring affinities shared across diverse cultures and geographies. This attitude and approach remain crucial in defining the region’s art and curating today. In 1960, Chen initiated a trip to peninsular

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  • Film

    Being There

    THE PRIZES WERE AWARDED a month ago, some very big deals have closed in recent weeks, and the Sundance Film Festival has closed its streaming platform, hopefully never to be used again—at least not as the primary means of connecting Sundance’s chosen movies to Sundance audiences. Having covered the festival for thirty-two years, the place—Park City, Utah—and my ten-day routine there is stamped into my neurological pathways, so it’s no wonder that I had flashes of déjà vu while sitting at home watching four or five movies a day on my desktop. One evening, checking in by phone with my Sundance

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  • Passages

    Marion von Osten (1963–2020)

    MARION VON OSTEN was a warmhearted punk who took punk’s contrarian and collaborative ethos to unexplored domains. She made it impossible to identify her role in any production process. If you wanted an artist, you might get a curator, and if you wanted a curator, you might get a researcher. If you wanted a professional, you might end up with an amateur equestrian. Dealing with Marion, one could not help but feel their own limited epistemology and imagination put to the test. If you wanted to have a serious discussion, she would drive you to tears of laughter. If you wanted to make a joke, she

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  • Passages

    Milford Graves (1941–2021)

    AS A CHILD IN JAMAICA, Queens, Milford Graves played on tin cans in the woods, “sending signals, trying to get everybody’s attention.” This spirit of adventure, showmanship, and defiance of convention never left him. Beginning on conga drums, he learned about Afro-Cuban music through a distant cousin, viewing it as the missing link between bebop and the African diaspora, and studied with tabla player Wasantha Singh. Forming a Latin group with pianist Chick Corea, who predeceased him by a matter of days, he gravitated toward jazz for its greater harmonic openness, switching from conga and timbales

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