David Velasco

  • Opening of the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 1968. From left: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carter Burden, Charles Inniss, Campbell Wylly, Betty Blayton-Taylor, Frank Donnelly. Photo: Jill Krementz.


    AS MUSEUMS AROUND THE WORLD reflect on their role in the reproduction of structures of domination, one instructive example is New York’s STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM, a modest but pivotal institution created in 1968 to champion Black culture and center artists of African descent. To help delineate the museum’s history and significance, Artforum organized an intergenerational conversation of Studio Museum leaders and alums—NAOMI BECKWITH, THELMA GOLDEN, THOMAS (T.) JEAN LAX, and LOWERY STOKES SIMS—moderated by DAVID VELASCO, the magazine’s editor in chief.


    DAVID VELASCO: The Studio Museum in

  • Lorraine O’Grady, Announcement Card 1 (Banana-Palm with Lance), 2020, digital C-print, 50 × 33 3⁄8". From Announcement of a New Persona (Performances to Come!), 2020. © Lorraine O’Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    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

  • Lucas Samaras, Untitled, 2008–20, ink-jet print, 14 × 14". From the “GESTURES” series, 2008–20.

    Project: Lucas Samaras

    AND SO WE’RE DONE with that weird year of distortions, when everything got stuck, and yet everything moved so quickly.

    To understand how the suspension of one set of forces might stimulate another, you have only to visit the sky-scraping studio of Lucas Samaras, the eighty-four-year-old self-described “urban hermit” and legendary artist-transformer. That Samaras knows how to live alone gave him a unique advantage when New York went into its first lockdown last spring. Perched before two iMac Pros high above the epicenter of the global pandemic, he got to work, “living in heaven for a minute, for

  • Stanley Whitney, Untitled (Can You Hear Us . . . ), 2020, watercolor, graphite, and crayon on paper, 10 1⁄2 × 10 1⁄2".


    IN THE DRAWING on the cover of this issue and in the three images that follow, the pioneering artist Stanley Whitney incorporates words into his enduring compositional touchstone, the four-by-four grid, within which he carries out his virtuosic adventures with color. The result is a group of potent pictures with a potent message: No to prison life. “Creating space within color involves experiments with density, vibrancy, saturation, and even with matteness,” Whitney told the art historian Andrianna Campbell-LaFleur in 2015. “It is not just formal for me—color has great depth; it can bring up

  • Where we're at

    IN EARLY JUNE, as heat turned up around the uprisings in defense of Black lives, I saw an Instagram story by the wildly talented artist and musician DonChristian Jones. He had been entrusted with a disused facility in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which he was transforming into an inclusive DIY community center foregrounding the creativity of BIPOC. Things needed to be done, and it was all hands on deck.

    Soon I was spotting brilliant banners at demonstrations around the city—at the Brooklyn Liberation Action for Black Trans Lives, the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives, and the Times Square Black

  • Cy Gavin, Untitled (Bald Eagle), 2020, acrylic, oil, and oil stick on canvas, 90 × 90". Installation view, Cy Gavin’s studio, upstate New York.

    1000 WORDS: CY GAVIN

    ON WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, night three of New York City’s curfew, the mayor’s gutless try at repressing the conflagrant uprisings for Black lives, Cy Gavin and I checked in on each other.

    Cy was upstate, where he’d moved a few years back to live and paint more or less as he wanted. He was excited about some paintings he was finishing and I asked if I could see them. One depicted a Saxon blue sofa that belonged to the enslaver George Washington. Cy kept him out of the picture but perched his rotting dentures on a cushion. To simulate the little brass tacks in the upholstery, he used the tip of his

  • Detail of a work in progress by Jasper Johns, April 13, 2020, approx. 50 × 66".


    THIS ISSUE came together very fast, organized in apartments scattered across the pandemic’s epicenter. There’s a vertigo to it all—of starting work just as the merry-go-round stops. This magazine, built piece by piece in our kitchens and makeshift offices, destined for other homes. Our nerves are on the surface, but they’re alloyed with hope.

    ON THE COVER is a bouquet of tulips. The artist Tosh Basco bought the flowers at the beginning of quarantine with their partner, Wu Tsang. They documented the flowers as they decayed. The picture is primed for metaphor, and part of its appeal is that it’s

  • To My Friends

    I SENT MY LAST EMAIL to Douglas Crimp on the evening of July 4, 2019:

    Hi Douglas,

    How are you?
    I’m writing from Desert Hot Springs, just outside of Palm Springs, in the Coachella Valley. I’m staying at a place called Hope Springs, a simple, vintage collection of bungalows. It’s July, so low season here, and cheap. It’s beautiful, though also terrible. I decided to come suddenly, to get a little distance from things, some clarity. So it’s peaceful, but the lack of distractions means I just get to feel as awful as I want, which is very.
    But anyway I miss you. I saw Morgan on Saturday night at their

    MY FIRST NEW YORK JOB was at the Stonewall Inn. I entered one quiet summer afternoon and convinced the manager I could run the bar. I was lucky. They were not. I was terrible, and by the end of my second shift they had recruited another bartender and put me to mopping up the groaning toilets.

    I’d arrived looking for “my people.” I needed them as much as I needed work to survive. Queers are born to be orphans, or changelings. We set out to unearth ancestors, sparking new myths that alter the meaning of our lives.

    One common myth is sacrosanct: On Christopher Street, around 1:30 am on the morning



    To be modern, art must follow a simple edict: Don’t instrumentalize. To seek utility is to sacrifice art’s special force. Art is at once valuable and invaluable, secular and sacred. It is porous nearly to the point of its own extinction—but its permeability is also the source of its tenacity. These contradictions form art’s uneasy, fertile subduction zone. They give it eerie energy.

    How can something with such unique power accomplish nothing? I’ve recently been in a lot of rooms with justifiably angry people trying to figure out whether art can do more. Even worse, some


    FOR THIS YEAR’S WHITNEY BIENNIAL, on view from May 17 to September 22, the Philadelphia-based artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden embarked on an ambitious journey to reconcile her artistic work with the spiritual work she undertook following her initiation into Santería/Lucumí, an Afro-Cuban religious practice developed by descendants of the Yoruba. McClodden’s project both mends and shatters, spiraling across the founding breaches of modern Western culture: the Euro-American colonization and enslavement of African peoples and the alienation of art from religion. It is a reminder that sometimes activism


    Curated by Jodi Hauptman and Samantha Friedman

    Lincoln Kirstein was twenty-one when, in December 1928, he founded the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, an essential blueprint for the Museum of Modern Art, which opened eleven months later in New York. He was twenty-five when he began to form, with George Balanchine, the School of American Ballet, the indispensable armature for American dance. If I didn’t love him, I’d hate him. Ambitious, well-connected, queer—a “Jewish Bolshevik with shocking bad manners,” as he once put it—Kirstein was a paragon of the prewar twentieth century’s