COLUMNS

  • Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, 1980. Photo: Stephen Petegorsky.

    Nancy Stark Smith (1952–2020)

    NANCY STARK SMITH: You have gone. I didn’t think it would end like this.

    But this isn’t about you—it’s about me. I’m all I have left of you. For forty-eight years I depended on you for my supply of Nancyness, accepting your various Nancy elements perhaps too casually; perhaps I didn’t realize how unique, how precious the supply of Nancyness was. Yes, just a personnel flavor in my world, some more Nancyness comes my way, and now, too late, I think, “But for you, where would I get any?”

    The world is large, and statistically there are people more or less like you. Some more, some less. But realistically,

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  • Marina Abramović and Ulay, Amsterdam, 1981.

    ULAY

    ULAY, MY FORMER PARTNER IN LOVE AND ART, died this year, and I lost a dear friend. He was an exceptional artist and human being who will be sorely missed by all who knew him and his work. We embarked on our private and professional journey together in Amsterdam in 1975. When we first met, on November 30, the date of birth we shared, in many ways we each felt as though we had found our other half. Our meeting was male and female energy coming together to create a third unified element we called “That Self.” The nickname we used for each other was Glue, which speaks to the way we viewed our

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  • Santu Mofokeng, Johannesburg, 2013. Photo: Steve Tanchel.

    SANTU MOFOKENG

     Only those

    Who have survived


    The final anaesthetization;

    Those who have enacted the final epilogue;

    Only those

    Have the prescient perception

    Of the inner idea of life

    And can partake of the spectral dance

    —Richard Ntiru, “To the Living”
    Mofokeng declares that shadow is the essential vehicle of all photographic work in general, and of his own in particular. Shadow: that is to say, by definition, the thing that cannot be seen. Namely, apart from the image, photography should be an instrument of revelation. The starting point of an ontological quest, though we don’t know where it will lead.

    —Simon Njami,
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  • Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad, 1959. Courtesy of Tamayouz Excellence Award, Rifat Chadriji Photographic Archive.

    Rifat Chadirji (1926–2020)

    RIFAT CHADIRJI, a pioneering Iraqi architect and architecture theorist, died in London on April 10 from complications related to Covid-19. He was ninety-three. He had continued until late in his life to expound his views on buildings, culture, history, religion, and Iraq. His design days may have been behind him—he had not built anything in more than forty years—but his influence on an expansive notion of modern architecture encompassing bold regional experiments has not waned.

    Chadirji was a leading figure among a group of exceptional artists and architects who, after studying abroad in the

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  • Bruce Baillie, 2019. Photo: Timoleon Wilkins.

    Bruce Baillie (1931–2020)

    FOR AN AVANT-GARDE FILMMAKER born in the 1930s, Bruce Baillie came late to cinema, but his manner belied his background—a BA from the University of Minnesota, naval service in the Korean War, even an abortive stint at the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School). Like Saint Francis, whom he so admired, he cultivated poverty, even if it didn’t come naturally to him. He adapted the manner of a college dropout, living in a tent, in communes, or in friends’ homes when he wasn’t with his generous middle-class parents. Had he not encountered, near the start of his career, Stan

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  • David Driskell, Self Portrait as Beni (“I Dream Again of Benin”), 1974, egg tempera, gouache, and collage on paper, 17 x 13". Courtesy: High Museum of Art, Atlanta/DC Moore, New York.

    David Driskell (1931–2020)

    WE ARE OFTEN ADVISED against meeting our heroes, lest admiration becomes disappointment. But sometimes, on pure adrenaline, we take the risk to introduce ourselves. When I met David C. Driskell, his status changed from hero to superhero. He also became a mentor and friend, as he had for so many others. He was elegant, measured, and funny. He was generous with his time and knowledge, and he supported younger artists and scholars. David maintained his characteristic down-to-earth demeanor while compiling a nearly unbelievable record of achievements. He was an artist, scholar, and curator. He was

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  • Michael Sorkin. Photo: Aundre Larrow.

    Michael Sorkin (1948–2020)

    I LOST A FRIEND, AND CITIES LOST THEIR FIERCEST, MOST PASSIONATE ADVOCATE with Michael Sorkin’s death from the coronavirus. He was one of only a few friends whom I consider—considered—brilliant: skillful beyond belief with words, master of arcane knowledge, and always quicker than anyone else at making connections. The sensuality of nature and angular modernity; vulgarity, narcissism, and a taste for autocracy. Dreams of a just society and projects that made artists and intellectuals feel they could really create one. Michael was always on the front lines, yet he was also off to the side, both

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  • Ulay with Thomas McEvilley, Eric Orr, and James Lee Byars, ca. mid-1990s. © Ulay.

    Ulay (1943–2020)

    IT IS PROBABLY THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH OF HIS I ever encountered. I saw it during my initial visit with Ulay, in 2009 in Amsterdam, where we were beginning to prepare the exhibition “Become,” at Škuc Gallery, in Ljubljana. At that time I recognized only James Lee Byars (that telltale cylinder hat) but eventually learned that Thomas McEvilley and Eric Orr, all close friends of Ulay’s, are also in the photo. And hiding behind the slab of wood is Ulay himself.

    I would see this image on several other occasions, all in Ulay’s company. The last time was less than a year ago, when he was reminiscing about

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  • Suellen Rocca, 1966.

    Suellen Rocca (1943–2020)

    WHEN I HEARD of Suellen’s passing, I thought back to my first meeting with her. As I recall, she wasn’t at the get-together we had for the planning of the first Hairy Who show. So I did the “grown-up lady thing” and invited her for lunch, even though my kitchen skills were severely lacking. No matter, it was getting to know each other that was important. I served a packaged soup, but didn’t stir in the required amount of water, so it was sort of lumpy, powdery, and weird. Suellen was gracious and such a good sport, laughing with me, not at me. We gradually choked it all down.

    She was kind,

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  • David Hockney, For Paul With Love David, 1965, colored crayon on paper, 19 7/8 x 15 7/8".  © David Hockney. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

    Paul Kasmin (1960–2020)

    I KNEW PAUL KASMIN ALL HIS LIFE. When Paul was a small baby, his father used to have a Tuesday evening soirée, where I met a lot of people, David Sylvester and Francis Bacon among them. And then, in the late ’60s, we used to go to a chateau in the Dordogne at Carennac, which Kas rented every summer. Paul was then seven or eight years old. I always loved him. He used to come and see me in London, then Paris, and then many times in California. From his father he inherited a fabulous eye—the gallery he opened in New York proved it. It was flawless. I last saw him here in Normandy, where his mother

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  • May Stevens in her studio, New York, 1974. Photo: Joyce Ravid. © The Estate of May Stevens.

    MAY STEVENS

    IN 1968, I moved to a loft in SoHo around the corner from where May Stevens and her husband, the Lithuanian-born painter Rudolf Baranik, lived with their dog, Sparta. We became friends and political allies. They were way ahead of me, having been deeply committed to the civil-rights movement and, later, active participants of the Angry Arts Week and cofounders of Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. Rudolf, a self-defined “socialist-formalist,” was the dedicated activist and strategist. May was involved but less active until the feminist art movement hit New York in 1970. Her

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  • May Stevens, A Life, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 78 × 120". From the series “Ordinary/Extraordinary,” 1976–84. © The Estate of May Stevens.

    MAY STEVENS

    I MET MAY STEVENS in the fall of 1983, when I enrolled in her survey class, Women in the Arts, at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I had made it through the tedium of the school’s conventionally designed foundation-year curriculum and into the second year of my degree program, when it was finally possible to take the many electives offered by the extraordinary instructors then teaching there. SVA was an early adopter of the adjunct-instructor model, meaning the school offered a representative sampling of the New York art world—for better and for worse. Painting was the dominant practice,

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