COLUMNS

  • Robert Frank, Trolley—New Orleans, 1955. © Robert Frank, from The Americans. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Sammlung Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur.

    Robert Frank (1924–2019)

    THE WEEK ROBERT FRANK DIED, the West Berlin building formerly known as Amerika Haus, now the gallery C/O Berlin, opened the exhibition “Robert Frank: Unseen.” As it happened, I was in town, staying no more than a few blocks away. The press preview was packed, the mood far from funereal—Frank was already an immortal. Indeed, his first German show had been at Amerika Haus back in 1985, when the place was programmed by the USIA, the now-defunct cultural diplomacy branch of the US government. Perhaps his work should have been permanently installed there.

    The title was a teaser. The show was half

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  • Robert Frank. © Michael Ackerman.

    Robert Frank (1924–2019)

    I REMEMBER SITTING IN MY STUDIO on Broadway and Bleecker, watching a new crop of footage I had received from Robert Frank. On the grainy black-and-white Super-8 reel of a dead horse in the sea, the animal was staring straight ahead, its long white mane of hair rippling back and forth, slowly, with the undulation of the waves. Then the camera pulled back to reveal the frozen sea, the water moving ever so slightly beneath a thin crust of stillness.

    I was feeling sort of stuck in time myself. No matter how hard I tried, as the film’s editor I just couldn’t find a place to cut out of the shot—I would

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  • Francisco Toledo (1940–2019)

    WE FELT IT IMMEDIATELY: the profound sense of orphanhood following the news of Francisco Toledo’s death. One of Mexico’s greatest artists, Toledo took up his mother’s last name and his parents’ Zapotec culture from the Oaxacan isthmus of Juchitán, on the country’s southernmost edge. After spending his youth in 1960s Paris, where he befriended Rufino Tamayo and Stanley William Hayter, Toledo went on to make a body of work that infused indigenous Zapotec traditions with Western mythology, eroticism, and avant-garde aesthetics. His practice drew from a hybrid of fluid references, not only in the

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  • Ronald Jones. Photo: Royal College of Art, London.

    Ronald Jones (1952–2019)

    HOW WILL ANYONE fill the void Ronald Jones leaves behind? The spaces he created could only be inhabited by him. Ron was an interdisciplinary experimentalist, a perverse conceptualist, a virtuoso educator. He was the most charming of mythomaniacs and a quintessential American who spent almost two decades in Europe, primarily in Stockholm and London.

    It was in New York in the late 1980s, however, that he gained prominence as an artist. In those days he was the “self-styled mayor of SoHo,” as one of his best friends put it, surrounded by admirers and closely connected to some of the best galleries.

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  • LUTZ BACHER

    UNTIL 2010, Lutz lived with her husband, the astronomer Donald C. Backer, in Berkeley, California. Lutz and Don were in love. Don was recognized internationally for his PAPER (Precision Array to Probe the Epoch of Reionization) project and for advancing the understanding of the history of the universe; Lutz was recognized internationally for advancing the understanding of the readymade. In her cosmology, everything was always already in the depths of the surface of the found object. Lutz died of a massive heart attack, exactly the same way Donald did nine years prior. She believed that there

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  • LUTZ BACHER

    The whole useless body was invaded by transparency. Little by little the body turned to light. . . . And the person was no longer anything but a sign among the constellations.1

    THIS EPIGRAPH, taken from Louis Aragon, appears twice in Lutz Bacher’s handwritten notes from the period during which Closed Circuit, 1997–2000, was being edited. As she described it,

    Closed Circuit is the 40 minute digital animation of video stills taken from a year of time lapse video recordings which show a fixed camera perspective of the office of my NY art dealer, Pat Hearn. In the autumn of the year 1997 the animation
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  • Carlos Cruz-Diez in Environnement Chromointerférent, 2010, included in the 2017 exhibition “Chroma” at SCAD Museum of Art. Photo: Rafael Guillén.

    Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923–2019)

    THE TASK SEEMED EXCITING ENOUGH: conduct research on a generation of Latin American artists who had moved to Paris after World War II. Back in 2002, when snail mail was still my primary means of communication, the process was slow and often painful. You’d find a number or address in the phone book, write them a letter, and then give them a blind call. Responses varied. Most artists eventually agreed to my insistent requests for interviews, but after decades of neglect or absence from American institutions, some were skeptical that a Ph.D. student from the United States would be interested in

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  • Katharine Mulherin, Toronto, 1999. Photo: Matthew Carver.

    Katharine Mulherin (1964–2019)

    KM WAS ALL OF THE THINGS. She was perceptive and talented. Committed and enthusiastic. Essential and legendary. And funny. She had a very unique way of bringing people toward art that they wouldn’t think of as refined or sellable. Through mere presentation, she posed the question: “Don’t you want to have fun?” For Canadians, that’s a hard question to answer, because of course they do, but is it allowed? By having multiple spaces so close together, she could open two entirely different shows—on one side a magnificent starkness, and on the other a full-tilt party of garbage art. And it worked.

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  • Johan Thom, The Reader: For DK, 2014, blackboard paint, white chalk, and colored pencils on paper, 3' 4“ x 4' 10”.

    David Koloane (1938–2019)

    I LOVED DAVID KOLOANE. He was kind and decent and an excellent, multifaceted artist.

    On a number of occasions David plainly said to me that contemporary artists should actively participate in the broader world of art by writing, curating, and advocating for art. This he did perhaps most concretely by cofounding the Bag Factory Artist Studios in 1991, in Johannesburg. The Bag Factory was the first space in South Africa where black and white artists could work together on equal footing. It was also there that I first met David after I joined the organization as a studio artist roundabout mid-2006.

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  • Joyce Pensato (1941–2019)

    I WAS FINISHING UP A ONE-MONTH STAY AT JOAN MITCHELL’S HOUSE in France when I met Joyce. It was July 1982, and Joan had awed me with tales of affairs with Giacometti and Beckett while dissecting my childhood, my romantic life, and anything else I might confide. Joyce used to joke that she had become a Joanie, and she was coming to stay the following month with her friend Carl Plansky. She’d previously spent six months at Joan’s, which must have been intense—I remember seeing Joyce’s harsh self-portrait with slashing brushstrokes and jarring colors in Joan’s wine and whiskey storage room. In

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  • R.H. Quaytman, Portrait of Warren Niesluchowski, Chapter 35, 2019, silkscreen ink, oil, gesso on wood, 20 x 32 1/3".

    Warren Niesluchowski (1946–2019)

    IN EARLY MAY I started to receive emails from friends who were at the professional viewing days for the Venice Biennale. No, they weren’t wondering where I was, why I wasn’t there. They were asking, instead, if I knew anything about the whereabouts of the one person without whom such an event felt incomplete: Did I know if Warren Niesluchowski was coming?

    Warren wouldn’t be making it to Venice this time, I had to tell them. He was in a hospital bed in New York—the latest (and, it would turn out, the last) of the many temporary accommodations he’d had the use of over the past two decades.

    Why so

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  • Lutz Bacher (1943–2019)

    WHEN LUTZ DIED THE WORLD SHRANK. In those ethereal days immediately following her stark exit, magic was the word I heard most to describe her effect. A magical phenomenon requires an effortless delivery, the mysterious sleight of hand where one is made incapable of conjuring the method of transmutation. Magic happens before our eyes, but points to a hidden blindness revealed by the omnipotent magician. Lutz had a way of locating the real in reality—the fact held in abeyance in plain sight. Her sense of where the art resided in the world was as spontaneous and self-assured as it appeared. She

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