David Velasco

  • PROJECT: STANLEY WHITNEY

    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

  • 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

  • WISH YOU WERE HERE

    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
  • GUTT FEELINGS

    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

  • ART’S UPRISINGS: ACTIVISM NOW

    WE WANT ART TO DO MORE. 

    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

  • 1000 WORDS: TIONA NEKKIA McCLODDEN

    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

  • “LINCOLN KIRSTEIN’S MODERN”

    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

  • REPAIR OR REVOLT? PROJECTS ON POLITICS

    WE ARE OUT OF PLACE.

    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

  • REVERIES OF A SOLITARY DANCER

    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