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David Antin (1932–2016)

Poet, critic, and performance artist David Antin has died. Born in New York City in 1932, Antin received a master’s degree in linguistics from the City College of New York. He became known for his “talk poems,” fusions of criticism, poetry, and storytelling that he crafted while performing in front of audiences. Pieces included Talking, 1972, Talking at the Boundaries, 1976, and What It Means to Be Avant-Garde, 1993.

Antin described these works as “improvised talk pieces.” He said, “I go to a particular place with something in mind but no clear way of saying it, and in the place I come to I try to find some way to deal with what I am interested in, in a way that is meaningful to both the audience and myself.”

Antin wrote seminal essays about various artists, including Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt, and Carl Andre. He authored Radical Coherence: Selected Essays on Art and Literature (2011) and wrote for numerous publications. In a 1975 issue of Artforum, he contributed an article titled “Television: Video’s Frightful Parent” in which he wrote, “The social uses of television continually force the issue of ‘truth’ to the center of attention. A president goes on television to declare his ‘honesty,’ a minister announces his ‘intentions,’ the evening news reports ‘what is being done to curb the inflation.’ The medium maintains a continual assertion that it can and is providing an adequate representation of reality, while everyone’s experience continually denies it.”

For twenty-five years, Antin taught at the University of California, San Diego’s department of visual arts. He was awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and received the PEN Los Angeles Award for Poetry in 1984.