Richard Flood

  • passages October 01, 2015

    Ingrid Sischy (1952–2015)

    WHAT I REMEMBER most about Ingrid is her voice. It was, as they say, an excellent instrument, low and honeyed, which could easily turn into a growl or a purr. Her use of it totally depended on what her goal was: getting someone out of her face, drawing someone closer, closing the topic down, opening a golden door. She would have made a great, rampaging Auntie Mame. I can see her climbing that stairway to paradise, arm extended, voice rising like an alto sax, exhorting “Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

    Richard Flood is the director of special projects and curator

  • film August 19, 2008

    Reel Crank

    In honor of Manny Farber, a painter and film critic who died Sunday night at age ninety-one, Artforum reprints Richard Flood's appreciation of Farber's writing, originally published in the September 1998 issue.

    MANNY FARBER IS THE RAYMOND CHANDLER of American film criticism. His adrenaline prose has been pumping since 1942, when he began reviewing for the New Republic. Over the succeeding four decades, he kept his writing lean and mean, florid and furious, absolutely unique. He reviewed for Time, The Nation, the New Leader, Artforum, and a parcel of other publications In the late ’70s, his

  • 1988: Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self-Portraits

    BACK IN THE EARLY ’80s, AIDS seemed as much rumor as reality; I can remember going to parties and hearing scattered complaints of strange, unpleasant symptoms that were terrifyingly resistant to diagnosis. Soon, however, a plague lurched into view, and its profile was monstrous. There was the implicit understanding that the virus was targeting (or, for the conspiracy minded, targeted at) the urban gay male community. Adding to the horror of a seemingly unstoppable disease was the toothy satisfaction of the Christian Right that the wicked were receiving their biblical due. With remarkable dispatch,

  • Richard Flood

    THOMAS JEFFERSON'S MONTICELLO IS AN EXTREMELY NERVOUS building. He worked on it for half a century, and in the end it bankrupted him, but what a legacy he left. When it was finished (or as finished as it was going to get), Monticello became the American apogee of auto-architecture; it was, like Hadrian's villa, the perfect measure of the man who made it. It remains a magnificent illusion of ordered geometries in service to an eccentric variety of often oppositional aims. In between what the house is and what it appears to be lies the tension that animates Monticello and mirrors its architect's

  • The art that inspired them in 2000

    Those of us who live and breathe contemporary art will hold to the idea that art does change, if not the world, then the way we live in it. But our “world” can be more insular than we care to admit. So to open our look back at 2000, we asked twenty-one “outsiders” we admire—from novelist J.G. Ballard to musician John Zorn—to tell us about the art that inspired them this year.

    Dave Eggers (novelist)

    About a year ago, I saw Marcel Dzama’s stuff in zingmagazine and fell madly in love. Then his show at David Zwirner just killed me. A hundred or so drawings (bears with handguns, whale-men

  • Dirty Pictures

    BACK IN 1990, the obscenity charges brought against the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its director, Dennis Barrie, sent shock waves through the art world. The fact that Barrie faced a possible prison term gave pause to art professionals everywhere. The occasion for the criminal proceedings was an exhibition that the Arts Center had rented from the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Titled “The Perfect Moment,” the show was a survey of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs first mounted in Philadelphia in 1988. By the time the exhibition reached Cincinnati, the


    The surroundings become a museum of the soul, an archive of its experiences; it reads in them its own history, and is perennially conscious of itself; the surroundings are the resonance chamber where its strings render their authentic vibration. And just as many pieces of furniture are like moulds of the human body, empty forms waiting to receive it . . . so finally the whole room or apartment becomes a mould of the spirit, the case without which the soul would feel like a snail without its shell. . . . The ultimate meaning of a harmoniously decorated house is, as we have hinted, to mirror man,

  • BEST OF THE ’90s: FILM

    CINDY SHERMAN, artist:
    Thomas Vinterberg’s brilliant The Celebration (1998) is especially important because it signals the future of the medium, away from Hollywood’s excesses.

    JOHN WATERS, filmmaker: During the 1994 Cannes Film Festival I was sick in bed with the flu on the night Pulp Fiction premiered. Suddenly, from blocks away I heard the most stupendous roar of approval from the opening-night audience. I was so pissed to have missed the night Quentin Tarantino became an instant cinematic icon. But once I saw the movie I knew he deserved it. I guess you could call me a Quentin-hag.


  • Manny Farber

    MANNY FARBER IS THE RAYMOND CHANDLER of American film criticism. His adrenaline prose has been pumping since 1942, when he began reviewing for The New Republic. Over the succeeding four decades, he kept his writing lean and mean, florid and furious, absolutely unique. He reviewed for Time, The Nation, The New Leader, Artforum, and a parcel of other publications. In the late ’70s, his successful career as a painter increasingly took center stage, and film gradually lost an important, always surprising apologist.

    I first learned of Farber’s criticism about twenty years ago, at the height of my


    WHEN IT CAME TO WRITING, Curzio Malaparte was a man on fire. He was a journalist and essayist, a novelist and a playwright. When it came to politics, Malaparte was a human weather vane. He was a republican, a nationalist, a fascist, and a communist. While he was dying of cancer in 1957, Malaparte turned the Roman clinic where he was undergoing treatment into the set of a postwar opera buffa. Lying in state, he was paid homage by the most notable of his countrymen, joined the Communist Party, converted to Catholicism, and then, totally synchronized with the prevailing power structure, expired.

  • Richard Flood talks with Nicholas Serota

    IT WILL BE CALLED THE TATE GALLERY of Modern Art, and it is scheduled to open at the beginning of the new millennium. The gallery will be housed in an extraordinary postwar relic, an oil-fired power station on the South Bank of the Thames, directly across from St. Paul’s Cathedral. The building, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1947, was completed in 1963; by then its austere, rather Gothic-Deco facade was well out of architectural fashion. Perhaps because it was already esthetically obsolete at birth, the building was denied placement on the architectural registry. It is, nonetheless, a

  • FILM


    High Travoltage

    Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was a perfect little movie. It aspired to nothing that it didn’t do, brilliantly. Tarantino knew how to keep the camera moving while the actors tossed their lines like they were grenades: he fast-forwarded the gangster genre way past the previous innovations of Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese. Reservoir Dogs was wildly funny, unremittingly brutal, and heroically human. It also knew how to stay small while trying out some big ideas.

    Pulp Fiction is an imperfect big movie. But imperfection has seldom felt so liberatingly giddy. The

  • Jackie O.

    MY MOTHER NEVER LIKED Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. She thought she was “sly”—a combination, I believe, of “too big for her britches” and “foreign.” My mother loved John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Jack,” the godlike exemplar of Irish-American, Boston-Catholic inevitability who was, oh my, just perfect. But Jacqueline Bouvier was this Frenchified whisper of a thing who was too delicate and standoffish to campaign with her Erin-go-bragh dream of a husband. Never mind that she was deep into a pregnancy; what Jack needed was a solid potato of a girl who could sprout children like tubers and get out

  • Six Degrees of Separation

    There is something morally anemic about Six Degrees of Separation. On Broadway, where it ran like a Restoration comedy on poppers, the messier social issues of John Guare’s play were folded in on themselves—as if a perfect sheet of dough covered everything with a creamy ubiquitousness. That the scary plight of the hustling black antihero is left willfully unresolved in order to serve up an epiphany of conscience to its careless white heroine caused nary a whisper of discontent.

    The play’s premise concerns a young man who claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier in order to insinuate himself into


    When the fun is at its height it’s time to go. — Irish proverb

    Having championed Gary Indiana’s critical faculties in the September issue of this magazine, I was slightly alarmed for both of us when I was asked to introduce the following essay. I hadn’t seen much of his writing since he stopped covering art for The Village Voice, back in 1988. But I did love the Voice column and I’d begrudge anyone else’s claim to love it more.

    Indiana’s art writing for the Voice had a gorgeous, chic nihilism just below its shimmering surface. For three years, his adjectivally sequined essays simultaneously caught

  • Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir

    Leni Riefenstahl, Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir (New York: St. Martin’s Press), 669 pages.

    It’s terribly difficult knowing what to think about Leni Riefenstahl’s Memoir. She began writing it when she was 80, finished it at 85, and now that she’s 91 the English-language edition has just been issued. While the Memoir concludes in 1982, a new documentary (Ray Müller’s The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl) shows her soldiering on with enough projects to last another lifetime. Together, the film and autobiography should meld into a hymn to the wondrous possibilities of simply, magnificently

  • Waldo Rising

    THE MOMENT HE opened his mouth, I fell in love with Waldo Lydecker. For most, I assume, Gene Tierney was the star of Otto Preminger’s Laura, of 1944, but I remained steadfastly focused on Clifton Webb, Laura’s caustic mentor. It was my first look at a critic and I liked what I saw—and heard. It didn’t matter that he was an unapologetic murderer. No, what I responded to was an acidic esthete who used language like a polo player uses a mallet—to keep the game moving and score.

    The film essentially pits a man of action (Dana Andrews) against a man of words (Webb), and from my then-adolescent point


    I saw the polka dots dancing, so to speak, on the ruffled jumpers of the two smaller girls seated side by side in the warm grass and holding hands, blowing chubby laughter in my direction as if they had never seen me before. And the peace, the warmth, the stasis, the smell of it—in such circumstances how could I help but enjoy my own immensity of size or the range of my interests, how help but appreciate the adaptability of certain natural scenes which, like this one, allow for the play of children one minute and the seclusion of adults the next? I felt a coolness between my porous thin white

  • “Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art”

    “Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art” called for a curator and a group of artists who clearly believe that there is a political reason for aligning their work with a sexual sensibility. There could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the institutional aegis provided by the New Museum would—however transitorily—attract the hot white light of notoriety. Even if a coherent thesis (or, less probably, a coherent esthetic) had emerged, the exhibition would have been—and was—first and foremost a vehicle for social and sexual confrontation—an act of bravado for all concerned.