COLUMNS

  • Osvaldo Romberg. Photo: David Romberg.

    Osvaldo Romberg (1938–2019)

    OSVALDO ROMBERG WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ARTISTS that I met upon my arrival in New York in 1992. My friend, the painter Fabián Marcaccio, was his assistant at the time, and he considered meeting Osvaldo an unavoidable rite of passage for any recent Argentine émigré. Larger-than-life in all possible senses, a mountain of a man with a voracious intellect and inexhaustible energy, he was welcoming, if slightly intimidating, when we visited him at his chaotic studio on Broadway and Prince, full of architectural models and canvases of all sizes. In a single sentence he could string together thoughts on

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  • Gillian Jagger, Rift, 1999. Courtesy the estate of Gillian Jagger and David Lewis Gallery, New York.

    Gillian Jagger (1930–2019)

    SOMEHOW, AT THE BEGINNING OF AUGUST 1988, I ended up in the Catskills with Nancy Graves and my husband, Paul Greengard, hell-bent on trying out our riding talents on Gillian Jagger’s horses. We were giddy like a group of children hungry for adventure. Being lifelong, thoroughbred hard workers, we weren’t used to taking a month off for anything, but that year we bought plenty of country records, cowboy boots, chaps, and riding helmets. I believe Gillian had four horses that summer. They were old and tired, but more than willing to do anything their beloved Gillian asked of them. She was their

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  • Kamal Boullata, Paris, March 1997. Photo: Serge Picard/Agence VU/Redux.

    KAMAL BOULLATA

    GRANADA STILL BEARS WITNESS to the golden age of Islamic culture in the palaces of its Alhambra, in the gardens of Generalife, and in the neighborhood of Albaicín, which grew across the Alhambra hills right before the fall. Inscribed in our collective memory as the last Andalusian city to be conquered by the Catholic kings in 1492, it is the perfect place for an Arab or a Muslim to meditate on exile. For centuries, poets, essayists, and moralists recalled Granada as our paradise lost—that is, until the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) sank in. Then Palestine became the fresh wound, the last loss,

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  • Matthew Wong, The Bright Winding Path, 2017, oil on canvas, 72 x 48". Courtesy of Karma, New York.

    Matthew Wong (1984–2019)

    I FIRST CAME ACROSS IMAGES of Matthew Wong’s paintings on Instagram some years ago. The platform is hardly ideal for transmitting the nuance, scale, and physicality of painting, but it does allow for the discovery of artists outside the traditional parameters of the contemporary art world. I don’t recall exactly what those early images were, only that their bold and charged simplifications of landscape brought to my mind the work of Milton Avery. As the images multiplied, so did the references: the unmistakable influence of Chinese landscape painting alongside Vuillard, Munch, Matisse, Alex

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  • 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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