COLUMNS

  • Electromedia portrait of Aldo Tambellini at The Black Gate Theater, New York, 1967. Photo: Richard Raderman. © Aldo Tambellini Art Foundation.

    Aldo Tambellini (1930–2020)

    THE BEST ART I SAW on my “Grand Tour” of 2017 wasn’t in Venice, or Münster, or Kassel. It was in Karlsruhe, at ZKM’s major retrospective of Aldo Tambellini—the media artist whose seven-decade career celebrated the sensuous power of darkness, and who passed away last week at the age of ninety. My detour to the show was a kind of pilgrimage: Although not yet a household name in the art world, he has long been a cult figure for those devoted to experimental film and video. (I myself was introduced to him around twenty years ago by both Gene Youngblood’s classic 1970 book Expanded Cinema and the

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  • Enzo Mari and Lea Vergine. Photos: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images.

    Enzo Mari and Lea Vergine (1937–2020, 1932–2020)

    I SAW THEM FOR THE LAST TIME a few months before the lockdown. I went over to give Lea a copy of my book on Mario Merz, which she wanted as a gift, and with a dedication. They weren’t well. Enzo was still suffering the aftereffects of an operation on his head necessitated by a fall from a ladder on which he was trying to prune some wisteria on the terrace; Lea, by contrast, had “blundered,” resulting in a nasty sunburn on her legs. Daily life had betrayed them, in short. I left their beautiful Milanese home in a state of sadness at the fact that such two strong personalities, two leaders in

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  • Frederick Weston. Photo: Olya Vysotskaya.

    Frederick Weston (1946–2020)

    BEFORE I CAN PEN ANY TRIBUTE, or remembrance, for and to my friend and artistic colleague, the visual artist, fashion designer, and poet Frederick Weston, I have to say I did not expect him to die. I was unprepared to receive the news of his demise from a private battle he fought with cancer. I was shocked in ways and still am. Just days before his death, he was on Instagram and had viewed a story I posted, so I imagined him as my all-seeing brother, always there. He was a tall, brown-skinned, handsome, and distinguished Black gay man with a personality and soul that was larger than life. If

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  • Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen in 1978 in Chicago. Photo: Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty.

    Edward Van Halen (1955–2020)

    I HAVE A FOND MEMORY of sitting on our ratty red velvet couch—or rather, on the small rug that covered the gaping hole in said couch, into which one might fall ass-backwards and not be able to exit without assistance—and earnestly explaining to my parents why Van Halen’s 1984 “Jump” was such a fucking masterpiece. It had something to do with the fact that Eddie Van Halen had introduced the synthesizer into hard rock—something that had never been done before*—or at least so I (thought I) had read. I was actually in the process of hearing this classic for the very first time, via our newly

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  • David Graeber speaking at Maagdenhuis, Amsterdam, in 2015. Photo: Guido van Nispen.

    David Graeber’s Unaccomplishments

    YOU SHOULD READ HIM, remember him.

    He is an important person and thinker.

    More than that, he was kind. He did good things for many people and opened many paths. He was helpful and generous. He was there when you needed him. He was brilliant and helped others find their brilliance. He was brimming with ideas and confidence and yet was equally unassuming. He was a comrade and friend. He was a very good anthropologist. He was dedicated to struggles against inequality and for freedom—an unrelenting adversary of capitalism, wage slavery, debt, bureaucracy, racism, and patriarchal, state, and police

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  • LOTTY ROSENFELD

    ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT and respected Chilean artists of her generation, Lotty Rosenfeld is best known as a founding member of CADA (Colectivo Acciones de Arte) and for an incisive solo practice that interrogated power and the occupation of public space during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Her work Una Milla de cruces sobre el pavimento (A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement), in which the artist turned traffic lines into crosses, or plus signs, or X’s, was first enacted on Avenida Manquehue in Santiago in 1979. This insurgent gesture, which she performed and documented throughout

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  • Joseph Bartscherer, Pioneering Mattawa. Nectarine, 1984–94, gelatin silver print, selenium toned, 23 7/16 x 28 7/16". Courtesy Peter Freeman, Inc. © the artist.

    Joseph Bartscherer (1954–2020)

    THE DAY AFTER I LEARNED Joseph Bartscherer had died, I opened the New York Times Magazine to a feature on the seasonal workers who harvest cherries in the same Mattawa, Washington, orchards that Joseph photographed thirty-five years earlier for “Pioneering Mattawa,” 1984–92, a series undertaken in a former desert expanse two and a half hours north of Seattle. The magazine’s freelancer Jovelle Tamayo chose to partially shoot the cherry trees during the foggy morning hours, making somber, damp photographs. By contrast, Joseph’s images of these same vineyards and orchards shine with the sharp, arid

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  • Robert Rooney, Portrait of John Nixon, 1979. © Estate of Robert Rooney.

    John Nixon (1949–2020)

    WHEN I LIVED in culturally and politically conservative Brisbane in the late ’70s and early ’80s, John Nixon was the first full-time practicing artist I ever met. He was from Melbourne and had moved to Brisbane in 1980 to be the director of the Institute of Modern Art, a beacon of artistic hope at that time. I was one of two singer-songwriters fronting the Go-Betweens, and to see the dark-clothed charismatic figure, hair swept back behind one ear, a fringe of black ringlets cascading over the other side of his face, gazing intently toward the stage during our pub and club shows was an unexpected

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  • Jacques Coursil in the Studio, 2019. Photo: Raisa Galofre.

    Jacques Coursil (1938–2020)

    “YOU CANNOT BE AN ARTIST,” said the trumpeter, scholar, and world-traveler Jacques Coursil, “if you don’t have one foot on the ground and the other outside the planet.” Pursuing a career across three continents, he and his work embodied the principles of Black diasporic internationalism. Opposed to the notion of roots as guarantor of authenticity, he nonetheless traversed the routes of world history. “I don’t like identity things,” he insisted. “I don’t have to claim where I am from, it’s so evident.”

    Coursil was born in Paris in 1938 to Martinican parents, his father a trade unionist and member

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  • Germano Celant, 1984. Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe.

    GERMANO CELANT

    PARIS, JUNE 1981. Germano Celant and I are drinking at a bar after the opening of his exhibition “Identité italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959” (Italian Identity. Art in Italy Since 1959) at the Centre Pompidou. He points to a young woman on a banquette, engaged in intense conversation. “That’s Ingrid Sischy, the new editor of Artforum,” he said. “I’ll introduce you.” That introduction transformed my life.

    Germano and Ingrid changed the magazine forever. They were perfect partners, truly phenomenal, each bringing out the best in the other. She: street-smart, a voracious consumer of the present

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  • Stephen Prina and Germano Celant driving to California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, September 1979. Photo: Luciano Perna/Archives.

    GERMANO CELANT

    THERE ARE ENDLESS STORIES about Germano Celant, the truly imposing impresario who died of Covid-19 in April at the age of seventy-nine. Since his passing, he has been called the “North Star of contemporary art,” and “one of the last, if not the last, great myth-maker[s].” He has been compared to Zorro and dubbed a God. But he was also a contradictory figure. While some describe him as an extraordinarily sensitive curator, one who was always on the artist’s side, others saw him as an art-world player who could be utterly ruthless when pursuing his ambitions. “I don’t feel like a man of power,”

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  • Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, and Frank Gehry, Il Corso del Coltello, 1985. Performance view, Arsenale, Venice. Basta Carambola (Germano Celant).

    Germano Celant (1940–2020)

    GIUSEPPE PENONE

    For Germano:

    Often the memories we have of friends are tied to small things that are marginal in the history of the friendship but which promptly come to mind the moment we remember them.

    I met Germano in 1968. I had just made my works about the growth of trees in Garessio, a small town on the border between Piedmont and Liguria.

    Germano asked me to send him material for a book he was preparing, the Arte Povera book published by Mazzotta.

    It was only later that he told me that part of his family was from Leca d’Albenga, a Ligurian town twenty kilometers from mine.

    This chance geographical

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