David Velasco

  • 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


    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



    November in the US is the time for politics as usual. By which I mean it’s the time when citizens are allowed to participate in that grand ratification of democracy we call voting. When the legitimacy of nearly every single one of our political institutions is in doubt, I find myself grateful for one that, despite the best efforts of antidemocratic forces to rob the poor and people of color of franchise, still offers the hope of peaceful revolution.

    To honor this month, we invited four artists to contribute projects, suggesting as prompts two subterranean questions: 1) Repair

  • diary October 03, 2018

    Do You Feel Free Now?

    ON MONDAY AFTERNOON, Chelsea Manning arrived at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on Albemarle Street for her first public appearance in the UK.

    She had flown into London the morning prior, accompanied by two immigration lawyers in case she was detained. Last year, Manning was denied entry to Canada, and this August an Australian tour had to be conducted via video from Auckland after a “delay” in the decision to grant her a visa. She was met at the airport by ICA director Stefan Kalmár, who arranged the trip and Monday’s conversation with the aid of a cast including Vivienne Westwood; the


    THIS SUMMER, in a spell of mildly toxic certitude and against all good advice, I decided to initiate a check-in with some of our best thinkers about the status of the Enlightenment. I wanted to pose an open question—one that was not just ontological (What is Enlightenment?) but temporal (When . . .), spatial (Where . . .), etc.—departing from the usual suspects like Kant, architect of some of the universalist thinking that subtends our fatigued and fatiguing world order (“in the West,” I initially appended the query, before realizing that the whole idea of a “world order” is more or less an


    ON JULY 6, 1962 seventeen members and affiliates of Robert Ellis Dunn’s composition class convened at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village for an unorthodox concert of dance. “There should have been something for everybody, including a nap if desired,” wrote the critic Jill Johnston in her ebullient Village Voice review. “In fact there was so much that special moments arose as expected and at least three dances provoked a big response from everybody.”

    That evening and some evenings after collectively became known as the Judson Dance Theater. The program was a signpost for both democracy


    The muse is the métier for Mickalene Thomas, the odalisque her great subject. Thomas’s paintings depicting her late mother, Sandra, or her lovers like Maya and Racquel, spin her relations into dazzling reflections on how we look and touch, who we see, what we desire. Rhinestones and glitter and flock and enamel tessellate into marvelous figures; somehow the facture does not look broken, but like a coming together. Thomas’s is a project of schooling art history in the terms of endearment. Her latest museum exhibition, “I Can’t See You Without Me,”

  • interviews June 19, 2018

    Ishmael Houston-Jones

    From June 21 through 28, as part of its East Village Series, Performance Space New York is reviving Them, a work the choreographer and dancer Ishmael Houston-Jones made in collaboration with the musician Chris Cochrane and the writer Dennis Cooper in 1986. Below is a reprint of a 2010 interview with Houston-Jones on the occasion of the work’s twenty-fifth anniversary production at PS 122.

    THE FIRST TIME I heard about Chris Cochrane was also the first time I saw him play, at a club called 8BC in a destroyed building on Eighth Street between avenues B and C. They had liquor there, but it was more

  • The Power of Good-Bye

    I SHOWED UP on this magazine’s doorstep twelve years ago. I came cold, via a classified ad for an editorial assistant on some antique website called mediabistro.com. I had no connections, was broke and unworthy. I had all the wrong education and just some hot faith in art.

    I ditched the education and kept the faith.

    That faith has been useful lately, with a predatory tyrant wheezing and emitting bleak transmissions to the world from the control room like some horrible Reddit monster. I think about how he’s really just a tired and sad old man who like so many tired and sad men feels that if he

  • “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016”

    She’s the greatest dancer. For more than five decades, Adrian Piper has advanced and everted that great whirl of thinking and form we too neatly call Conceptual art. Piper shows us how to do it right, perhaps most generously through her signature performance and video works. From Funk Lessons, 1983–84, and The Big Four-Oh, 1988, to her more recent Adrian Moves to Berlin, 2007/2017, in which she grooves to postmillennial Berlin house music in sunny Alexanderplatz, Piper kicks open your mind as she steps to the rhythm. It’s been over

  • slant September 26, 2017

    Into the Storm

    APRIL 16, 2017 AT 2:24 PM EST

    Dearest Bruce,

    Today, a resurrection. 

    On Tuesday, as you recommended, I went to Light Industry to see Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield’s 1984 conversation, or portrait of, Craig Owens, part of Video Data Bank’s incredible interviews with artists and writers. This was some six years before he died, age thirty-nine, of—I rehearse the intolerable boilerplate—AIDS-related complications. 

    Eighty black-and-white minutes. Owens sits in a director’s chair in front of a makeshift backdrop—the zigzag of a wrinkled moving blanket. He talks and talks, always smoking. Or… he’s


    THE LINE to get into Anne Imhof’s German pavilion takes two hours. Dobermans roam behind a twelve-foot-high welded-wire fence. We wait impatiently, a procession of docile tourists, shapeless and slouching in tired linens, sweating in all the wrong places, drawn down by tote bags spelling out the names of other artists, other nations. For those in the know, Germany’s swag is hardest to get and better than the rest—a black polyester drawstring knapsack printed with a topless photo of Eliza Douglas, artist, model, Imhof’s girlfriend, and star of Faust, this stylishly cryptic show.

    Inside, the

  • Douglas Crimp’s Before Pictures

    Before Pictures, by Douglas Crimp. New York: Dancing Foxes Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. 308 pages.

    IT STARTS LIKE a classic bildungsroman from the mighty island-city: It’s 1967, and a young writer from a beautiful, bigoted town called Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, escapes to Manhattan to find himself. A decade later, he’s made his mark: It’s called “Pictures,” and it alters the course of art and its discourses.

    What makes Douglas Crimp’s Before Pictures so remarkable is not just its subject—the art historian and AIDS activist’s early years leading up to the epoch-defining 1977

  • performance November 25, 2016

    Thank You for Being a Friend

    November 21, 2016 at 8:54 PM EST

    Dear Mr. B,

    I’ve just come home from an event of much love at the Kitchen, part of the rollout of Douglas [Crimp]’s superb memoir [Before Pictures]. Three exemplary interlocutors from three different dance worlds: Adrian Danchig-Waring (New York City Ballet/Balanchine), Silas Riener (Merce Cunningham), and Yvonne Rainer (Yvonne Rainer). 

    A little asymmetrical, I suppose, since Rainer got to play herself, though everyone did a very good job representing. 

    Rainer, at the end, was trying to respond to a question from the audience, and failing a bit. She said her mind

  • interviews May 27, 2016

    Terence Koh

    The mythmaker Terence Koh makes the most of big questions. For his show “bee chapel” at Andrew Edlin’s new space on the Bowery, the Beijing-born, Ontario-raised artist has brought upstate New York downtown, covering the gallery’s floors in topsoil, conjuring a living-dying apple tree, and building a wax shrine for a colony of bees. Acrylic tubes connect the “chapel” to the outside, allowing the little ciphers to come and go as they please. This is Koh’s first solo presentation in New York since nothingtoodoo, his memorable performance at Mary Boone Gallery in 2011.

    I MOVED UPSTATE about two-and-a-half