COLUMNS

  • Ntozake Shange (1948–2018)

    her / page

    / was it leaning or pushing / resting or hurrying /

    along did / it slic/e / did it su/tu/re / how are /

    w/e / blackened by col/onial modern/it/y to wor/k in /

    and / with / and against / and a/longs/ide this

    motion / this wav/e thi/s hi/sto/ry moving in / us

    as / us / move/ing / us

    what / she asked / did words / do / when we use/d

    them and they / in turn / used us / what did they /

    demand as / sacrifice / what did the/y seve/r what /

    did t/hey j/oin / and how / did w/e sal/vage

    some/thing in the / j/oin/t / som/e/thing w/e might

    su/rviv/e

    when I first encou/ntered Ntozake Shange’s slashes

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  • Takehisa Kosugi (1938–2018)

    IN HIS FORMATIVE YEARS as an ethnomusicology student in the Tokyo of the late 1950s, Takehisa Kosugi’s artistic field of reference included Luigi Russolo, Michel Leiris, and Pierre Schaeffer. If the first and the last are not surprising as musical models—the Futurist’s “noise” instrumentation, and the founder of musique concrète’s concern with the “variation of matter” to be derived from alternative sound sources—looking to Leiris and the Collège de Sociologie as a model for research set Kosugi’s circle apart from their artist peers and the late Surrealism that held sway in the 1950s.

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  • Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Photo: Frank Hanswijk.

    Robert Venturi (1925–2018)

    AS AN ARCHITECTURE STUDENT STRAPPED FOR CASH in the mid 1970s, I managed to burn a month’s rent on a first-edition copy of Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and his life partner, Denise Scott Brown. This book was a revelation. I learned that architectural production could take the form of a research project and book, not only bricks and mortar. The authors single-handedly inverted the prevailing logic of design pedagogy by asserting that the rarefied world of academia could gain valuable insights from pop culture.

    At the time, I was studying at Cooper Union under the spell of the “Whites,”

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  • Anne MacDonald in her Berlin apartment. Photo: Maureen Keefe and Michael Penhallow.

    Anne MacDonald (1942–2018)

    MY FRIEND Anne Marie MacDonald passed away this month.

    I’m thinking out loud, speaking to her the way I would in the millions of emails we exchanged over the years. . . . Really Annie? Is this your idea of finally getting me to write for Artforum—your obituary? But then you’ve always waited patiently—maybe not so patiently—for me to come around.

    I first met Anne in 1986, when she exhibited the Black Paintings at Artspace in San Francisco. I think it was their second show and the curatorial debut of John McCarron. Gentle and brilliant John; she was so devoted to him. He was only

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  • Geta Brătescu, Mrs Oliver in her traveling costume, 1980/2012, black-and-white photograph, 15 x 15.5". Courtesy the artist, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin, and Ivan Gallery.

    Geta Brătescu (1926-2018)

    IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO PICTURE Geta Brătescu and not see her in her studio (the occasional flashes of the traveling Lady Oliver aside). Not simply because the recent resurgence of interest in her work arrived at a time when her mobility was already reduced, a fact that kept her from personally presiding over the triumph of her long overdue Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year. Nor only because so much of her practice is thematically tied to the studio, with one of her most celebrated works—Atelierul (The Studio), 1978—quite literally enshrining its physical space against the

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  • From left: Nat Hentoff, Jules Feiffer, Alex Cockburn, Karen Durbin, and Joel Oppenheimer picket after Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 1977. Photograph: © Sylvia Plachy.

    The Village Voice (1955–2018)

    THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VILLAGE VOICE—in the spirit of the paper itself, let’s not mince words about the nature of its ending—may not have been a surprise, but it was still a shock to the system. I myself was a latecomer to the publication, first hired as a pinch-hitter art critic in 2014, and then bumped up to art columnist in 2016. At that time, a new owner promised a new era, vowing to make the Voice great again, and we who worked there believed him. Few of us trusted the self-proclaimed savior, but we did somehow, perhaps a bit dumbly, have faith that the phoenix would inevitably rise from

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  • Cecil Taylor

    IN THE MID-1990S, I moved from Houston, Texas, to New York to study at the Manhattan School of Music. I routinely walked from Harlem to SoHo, walks that would basically take all day, and I’d make unplanned pit stops while learning the city. One of these walks was specific: Someone told me about a Cecil Taylor performance downtown. When I arrived at the intersection of Houston and Mercer, I saw a piano on a small stage in the middle of the street. An audience of about three hundred lined the sidewalk. I found are hydrant to stand on. Cecil began playing, growling and crying his way through the

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  • Photo: Annie Sprinkle.

    Fakir Musafar (1930–2018)

    A FEW DAYS AFTER FAKIR’S SPIRIT LEFT HIS BELOVED BODY, I went to a salon in a mall in Syracuse, New York, to get my hair dyed. Every one of the six stylists, all in their twenties and thirties, had multiple facial piercings, visible tattoos, and brightly colored hair. I marveled at how things had changed since the 1970s and 1980s, when the only kind of piercings one saw in the US were in women’s ears—and even those were rare, and tattooing was illegal in many places. I asked each of the colorfully adorned stylists if they knew anything about the history of modern-day body modification. Not one

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  • Aretha Franklin, ca. 1972. Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy.

    Aretha Franklin (1942–2018)

    WHERE I LIVE NOW, Respekt! is what we say to express surprise, admiration, and, well, respect, for a person’s achievement. In my country of origin, in the 1970s, “Respect” was my infallible litmus test for culling those with whom friendship was possible from those who didn’t know who Aretha Franklin was, or who looked with distaste or condescension on her magisterial achievements, or who openly derided them as “jungle music.” Among those who passed that first test, those with whom friendship was likely had to either move to the beat spontaneously, or at least be willing to learn. That learning

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  • Antonio Dias (1944–2018)

    THE MORNING AFTER the opening of Antonio Dias’s 2009 retrospective at Daros, Zurich, the news broke that a fire in Rio had consumed the vast majority of Hélio Oiticica’s work. My second visit to the exhibition, one day later, was shot-through with a vivid sense of uneasiness and urgency. Dias and Oiticica were peers in one of the most defining moments of twentieth-century Brazilian art—the mid 1960s avant-garde that coalesced apropos of exhibitions such as “Opinião 65” and “Nova Objetividade Brasileira.” Yet no one knew what exactly had been lost forever to the flames. It was as if history was

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  • David Goldblatt (1930–2018)

    PERHAPS THE SUBJECT THAT DAVID GOLDBLATT MOST IDENTIFIED WITH was the Karoo desert, the Great and the Little, the desiccated stillness and the dusty roads that cross it. Farmlands Uitkyk, Bushmanland, Northern Cape, 27 June 2004, 2004, which he chose for the cover of the 2014 Steidl reissue of Regarding Intersections, was a sterling example of it, the kind of terrain Goldblatt privately called “fuck-all.” Was it the refusal embedded in these surfaces that induced him to stare so long, to dig so hard? Whatever the provocation, he was a photographer—and a person—who needed to get to the core of

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  • Sabina Ott. Photo: The artists’ estate and Aspect/Ratio Gallery.

    Sabina Ott (1955–2018)

    I FIRST MET SABINA OTT in the mid 1990s when she was making a series of large encaustic paintings that she titled Sub Rosa. They featured a mixture of geometric and cloudlike, decorative shapes arranged above slanting lines, suggesting an aerial viewpoint. Lone or paired alphabet letters were buried under the wax, but they didn't say anything. The paintings were triggered when she read Gertrude Stein—and they, or the idea, continued to grow until they were no longer paintings. Stripes of deep color leapt out of the frames and onto wood plinths, and eventually onto the walls of the gallery. As

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