COLUMNS

  • Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian wearing a Turkoman coat, New York, circa 1990s. Photo: Leonor Caraballo. Courtesy the artist’s family and Haines Gallery.

    Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1922–2019)

    MONIR AND I FIRST MET in New York City in the late 1980s, when we discovered we were both born in Qazvin, one of Iran’s most conservative and religious cities, and one that took pride in being the country’s medieval capital from 1555 to 1598 during the Safavid dynasty. I was a struggling young artist newly arrived in New York, while Monir, then in her late sixties, had been active in the city since New York’s golden years of bohemia and had formed close friendships with artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Frank Stella. As a prominent and celebrated artist, cultural activist,

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  • CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN

    “WE ARE GOING TO WORK TOGETHER,” she would tell me self-assuredly, whenever we met on various occasions. I often ran into her in New York, whether on the streets or at Electronic Arts Intermix, where she was perpetually, or so it seemed, editing the video of her 1964 performance Meat Joy. In the 1990s and 2000s, when I was a young curator beginning to explore experimental cinema and radical art by women, and later during my time as director of the Generali Foundation in Vienna, Carolee Schneemann was always on my mind. My earliest exposure to her work was Fuses, 1964–67, a silent 16-mm film shot

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  • CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN

    I FEEL THAT EVEN a dedicated special issue of Artforum would be insufficient to grapple with the loss of an artist of Carolee’s stature. Despite Kristine Stiles’s proclamation, more than a decade ago, that Carolee represented one of the “great women artists” for whom Linda Nochlin had longed, art history has generally failed to recognize the true breadth of her achievement. As was most clearly revealed to me while working with Sabine Breitwieser on the traveling retrospective “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” (2015–18), Carolee’s body of work was as intricately interconnected—recursively

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  • CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN

    CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN WAS SUPER FAB! She made her mark early with her definitive performance pieces of the 1960s and ’70s. Her groundbreaking Interior Scroll detonated art history in 1975; it was first performed at the show “Women Here and Now” in East Hampton, New York. She asked Joan Semmel, who organized the exhibition together with Joyce Kozloff, if she knew which type of glue would work best with vaginal fluid. Joan did not have the answer!

    Carolee’s work was undeniably outspoken and rageful. She gave birth to a literal and psychological scroll—it was a voice from within.

    She was part of the

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  • John Richardson (1924–2019)

    “I’VE SEATED YOU next to John Richardson at dinner—you guys will hit it off.” John and I met in Moscow, June 2008. It was the opening night of the first Garage Museum, and my friend and Garage director, Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, got us together. John and I talked and danced until morning and remained friends ever since. I liked him immediately. He was an art world legend before we met, but I liked him even more in the flesh.

    John had a life-force that halved his age. He knew everything; art-historical references, contemporary painting, gossip, museum collections, royal connections, people’s

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  • ROBERT RYMAN

    EVEN THOUGH I wrote several essays on Robert Ryman’s art, I hardly knew him. I did meet him a few times, but on each occasion he was rather reserved—extracting information or comments from him was like pulling teeth. My guess is that he was shy, even though other writers have been able to conduct remarkably rich interviews with him over the years: Obviously, I did not have what it takes. No matter, for he did not have to speak in order to make a statement. Eloquent silence.

    My first encounter with him is a case in point. It was during the installation of his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou

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  • ROBERT RYMAN

    HAVE YOU EVER walked into a darkened room only to find that, once your eyes adjusted to the light, there was much to discover? Long ago, I wrote this about a particular Ryman painting, yet it is a feeling at the heart of what makes all of his artwork so remarkable. Often described as simply squares of white paint of various textures, Ryman’s paintings suggest a narrow focus. That focus, however, allows our attention to be more acute and sharpened, and what is actually offered is far from straightforward. What might at first seem simple turns out to be complex.  

    Ryman’s art is one of practical

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  • ROBERT RYMAN

    I MET ROBERT RYMAN IN 2003, when I was a graduate student seeking out the would-be subject of my nascent dissertation. I had been curious, mostly, about the man whose ostensibly minimal paintings had already irrevocably altered my understanding of the medium. I was shocked to discover my West Village apartment was only a few blocks north of his studio, which was located in a tall, skinny building next to a then-empty parcel that I had long walked past without really noticing it. When I rang the buzzer, Bob appeared, bespectacled and well-groomed, framed through the window grille. I was a nervous

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  • ALEX BROWN

    I MET THE PAINTER ALEX BROWN when I moved to New York City from San Francisco in 1996. We were set up on a kind of blind date by friends from his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, whom I’d known in SF. Among his Iowa friends, Alex had a certain legend attached to him. He’d moved to NYC, played guitar in various seminal hardcore bands (Gorilla Biscuits, Project X, Side by Side), produced a coveted zine called Schism, and almost immediately had an art career after graduating from Parsons.

    “I’ll be wearing a blue anorak,” he said to me on the phone, so I could identify him when we met. We were more

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  • Kevin Roche. Photo: Ford Foundation.

    Kevin Roche (1922–2019)

    IF THE CONTEMPORARY ARTIST ASPIRES to channel the spirit of the modern world, the modern architect is in the business of, also, shaping that world. Kevin Roche succeeded at this more than most. Aligning himself with some of the most powerful systems of the twentieth century, Roche remade city blocks and skylines from Columbus to Kuala Lumpur. His firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, completed projects for the computing industry (IBM), advertising firms (Leo Burnett), chemical companies (Union Carbide), big pharma (Merck and Company), petroleum giants (Conoco), and banks (Deutsche

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  • Jack Burnham (1931–2019)

    AS THE CLOUDS of Hurricane Sandy gathered, I sped north from Virginia to Maryland en route to interview Jack Burnham, the elusive curator of the digital art exhibition “Software” (1970) and the author of the influential Artforum essay “Systems Esthetics” (1968). We had begun our correspondence months earlier, when I tracked him down to request permission to reproduce one of his alchemical diagrams for a piece I was publishing on mysticism, systems theory, and ecological art. When he returned the signed permission form, he included a diagram, a Kabbalistic tree of life mapping the circulations

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  • Bisi Silva (1962–2019)

    I FIRST MET BISI SILVA in 1995, when she joined me to organize the 1996 conference for the British chapter of the AICA and the accompanying book, Art Criticism and Africa (Saffron Books, 1997). By then, Bisi had graduated with her master’s in curating from the Royal College of Art. Throughout the 1990s, in London, she established herself as a freelance curator and critic, which was no easy task.

    We frequently discussed the many misconceptions of contemporary art from Africa as well as how people are positioned as being “from” a place when speaking “to” a rapidly internationalizing art world. Our

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