• Kenneth Anger, Scorpio Rising, 1963, 35 mm, color, sound, 28 minutes. Kenneth Anger.

    Kenneth Anger (1927–2023)

    KENNETH ANGER was an audacious filmmaker, a self-proclaimed magus, a never-closeted queer, a shameless scandalmonger, a sometime Satanist, a difficult person, and, as P. Adams Sitney put it, the “conscious artificer of his own myth.” He was also the King of Pop—at least that’s what I thought on first seeing Scorpio Rising (1963) in the mid-1960s, age sixteen, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

    There were other movies on that program; I remember being impressed by Gregory Markopoulos’s Ming Green and Ed Emshwiller’s Relativity. But Scorpio Rising blew everything else away: the enameled

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  • Vivan Sundaram and Geeta Kapur in their New Delhi home, 2022. Photo: Rattanamol Singh Johal.

    Vivan Sundaram (1943–2023)

    ON A CRISP NIGHT IN NEW DELHI last December, I made my way to Vivan Sundaram’s brutalist bungalow, nested in a leafy garden and casually adorned with some of the most iconic exemplars of Indian modernism: his aunt Amrita Sher-Gil’s melancholic young women, his friend Bhupen Khakhar’s playfully awkward watch repairman, Nasreen Mohamedi’s rigorous lines, and Vivan’s own portentous portrait of his maternal family which was recently installed in the sitting room. As I took in the work’s commanding scale and muted palette, Vivan and his partner—the influential critic-curator Geeta Kapur—emerged from

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  • Kwame Brathwaite, Untitled (Garvey Day, Deedee in Car), ca. 1965/2018, archival pigment print.

    Kwame Brathwaite (1938–2023)

    KWAME BRATHWAITE WAS FAMILY! He taught me about the possibilities of photography and what it means to document everyday life in Harlem. The last time I saw Kwame was at Melba’s Restaurant on a Sunday afternoon with his family. All the church folks were there. He and his wife greeted me as they always did with a welcoming smile. Kwame’s warmth and compassion for community guided me to a phrase I call upon often: “Art teaches us that every life has value.”

    In 1969, I moved from Philadelphia to New York City to study at the Germain School of Photography in Lower Manhattan. The first photographer I

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  • Jean-Marie Straub, France, 2002. Photo: Richard Dumas/Agence VU/Redux.

    Jean-Marie Straub (1933–2022)

    AS AN ARTIST and a person, Jean-Marie Straub embodied the dialectic.

    Rooted but stateless, he was born in re-Frenchified Alsace-Lorraine, grew up under Nazi occupation, fled liberated France to avoid serving in Algeria, touched down in Germany, settled in Italy, and died in Switzerland—a consummate European.

    Central yet marginal, Straub came of age with the cineastes of the French New Wave and, with his life partner, Danièle Huillet, made his—or should we say their—earliest films in Munich, adjacent to the German Neue Kino. Their fantastically elliptical first feature, adapted from Billiards at

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  • Silke Otto-Knapp, Mendocino, CA, January 2021. Photo: Sharon Lockhart.

    SILKE OTTO-KNAPP (1970–2022)

    OUR DEAR FRIEND Silke Otto-Knapp left us on the full moon of October 9. Silke was unprepared to go, and we were unprepared for her to leave. In the studio she had recently built in her garden were preparatory sketches, models, one finished work, one incomplete work, and several primed canvases she had been working on. The title “Versammlung,” roughly meaning a gathering or assembly, was fitting for the group of paintings that made it to Galerie Buchholz in New York for the opening of her show there on October 28. They depicted groups of figures (women) gathered in sets on folding screens. But

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  • Jean-Luc Godard, Paris, October 15, 1998. Photo: Richard Dumas/Agence VU/Redux.

    JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930–2022)

    IN HIS FINAL YEARS, Jean-Luc Godard repeatedly pronounced his latest film his last, then made another. He had bidden farewell to cinema countless times throughout his career—famously proclaiming his Week-end the “fin du cinéma” in 1967—even as he fed rumors of new works, including, most recently, films titled Drôles de guerres (Funny Wars) and Scénario (Script), one of them consisting of still images in the manner of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962).

    At the end of what was truly his terminal feature, Le livre d’image (The Image Book, 2018), a surging requiem for a world addicted to its own extinction,

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  • Jean-Luc Godard, JLG/JLG - autoportrait de décembre (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December), 1994, 35 mm, color, sound, 62 minutes. Jean-Luc Godard.

    JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930–2022)

    OY, I THOUGHT Godard would live forever, at least till the end of my own life. Early on, in my youthful arrogance, I had quibbles with some of his films—too arch at times, too arrogant at others—but I have since had to admit that without his brilliance and daring, many of us in the US avant-garde would have missed out on his challenge. At some point, on one of the director’s visits to New York, his agent had asked me for copies of several of my films for Godard to view. I complied, and though subsequently I never heard from the master himself, I felt deeply honored. I have no doubt that Godard’s

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  • Jean-Luc Godard, 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (2 or 3 Things I Know About Her), 1967, 35 mm, color, sound, 87 minutes. Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady).

    JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930–2022)

    QU’EST-CE QUE LE CINEMA? Posed in the title of André Bazin’s multivolume collection of essays, this question guided Jean-Luc Godard through more than sixty years of filmmaking, yielding the most beautiful, provocative, tender, irritating, glamourous, exhilarating, and emotionally and intellectually complicated works in the history of motion pictures, supreme among them the wildly personal, decade-in-the-making Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–98).

    To ask “What is cinema?” is to focus attention—perceptual, kinetic, associative—on the object in question rather than on peripheral considerations such as

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  • Lee Bontecou in her Wooster Street studio, 1963. Photo: © Ugo Mulas.

    Lee Bontecou (1931–2022)

    IN THE SPRING OF 1964, I attended a ballet in the newly opened New York State Theater. There was a sizeable horizontal sculpture (twenty-one feet wide, by about six feet high) mounted on the wall in the alcove behind the double stairways going up to the auditorium. It was striking and I looked for the artist’s name—Lee Bontecou—which I had not heard (but I was still new to the art world). The presence of the (Untitled) work was an uncanny combination of the mechanical and the avian, with an evanescent hint of menace.

    Two months later, toward the end of June, I took the train from New York out to

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  • The cover of Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s The Bunch's Power Pak Comics, 1979.

    Aline Kominsky-Crumb (1948–2022)

    I LOVED GETTING a FaceTime call from Aline, phone propped up so I could see her face and environs. Can you see my cozy bedspread? See my lamp? The wall color is nice! Cute, huh? In her home in the south of France she always seemed perfectly in tune with the colors and tones of the walls and furniture around her. 

    For such a quiet place, things in that remote village always felt like they were in motion. There were comings and goings, and Aline herself was a force of energy. At dinner she’d gesticulate and exclaim and oh it was fun. That vibrant, incredible energy. But when she was seated in public

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  • Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, March 1968.

    Billy Al Bengston (1934–2022)

    BILLY AL AND I MET in the early 1960s when he was racing motorcycles at Ascot Park in Gardena. I visited him at the hospital after he broke his back in one of those contests and it pretty much ended his racing career, but not his passion for motorcycling. He got me interested in the sport and we toured several times going from the northern border of Baja to the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas, a distance of some one thousand miles. We would travel only on dirt roads to avoid the dangers of paved highways. We would get lost or “diverted” from time to time, but always with hilarious circumstances.

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  • Peter Schjeldahl looking at Joan Mitchell’s Hemlock, 1956, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 2019. Photo: Jarrett Earnest.

    Peter Schjeldahl (1942–2022)

    ONE PROBLEM with seeing an exhibition with someone else is that rhythms of looking are so often at odds—either they move too slowly or not slow enough, or pay too much attention to stuff that you do not. Soon after we met in 2014, Peter Schjeldahl and I figured out that we were weirdly in-sync gallerygoers. Walking through a show together, we’d incessantly narrate bits of what we were seeing to each other, trying out descriptions and bits of language in the presence of the art itself—Peter scribbling on a checklist or small notepad like a proper reporter. These were my most vivid encounters with

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