COLUMNS

  • From left to right: Carl, Jennifer, Susan Shultz, Kathleen Stewart, and Lauren Berlant.

    Lauren Berlant (1957–2021)

    LAUREN SHOULDERED THE WORLD.

    All she ever wanted was company in that. 

    In the end, she said it was work that killed her. 

    Her truth, hard-won, was a searing empathy for all human fuck ups.

    She insisted on that with the bare ferocity of a seer. 

    She learned she had an inhabitable endurance. Fuck leiomyosarcoma. 

    She got realer and realer as a sentient mind, an infrastructure of imperatives and spinning potentials.

    She got wide open and ready for it.

    She was writing her “poison poems” with a new frankness honed to a point. “At the same time as my friends grow all emotions and abstractions, I sit in the

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  • Frederic Rzewski. Photo: Michael Wilson.

    Frederic Rzewski (1938–2021)

    “MUSIC PROBABLY CANNOT CHANGE THE WORLD,” wrote composer Frederic Rzewski. “But it is a good idea to act as if it could.” Born to parents of Polish descent in Westfield, Massachusetts, he studied music in a series of elite institutions, from the Phillips Academy to Harvard and Princeton. Attending the Darmstadt Summer School in 1956, Rzewski was exposed to serial composition, as well as the more anarchic work of composer-performers John Cage, David Tudor, and Christian Wolff. Studying with Luigi Dallapicolla in Italy (1960–61) and Elliott Carter in Berlin (1963–65), he established an early

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  • Judith Godwin at the opening of her solo exhibition “Judith Godwin: An Act of Freedom” at Berry Campbell, New York, 2019. Photo: George Sierzputowski.

    Judith Godwin (1930–2021)

    WHEN THE ARTIST Judith Godwin died on May 29 in her ninety-second year, the art world lost the last living member of a generation of women Abstract Expressionists, a group of artists largely overlooked in favor of their male peers. I lost a dear friend. 

    My connection with Judith came about through our mutual friend Julie Lawson, a London art-world personality and assistant to Sir Roland Penrose, one of the founders of the city’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. Years later, when I was living in New York, Julie introduced me to Judith, who struck me as a delightful and irreverent Southern lady.

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  • Barry Le Va, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1968.

    Barry Le Va (1941–2021)

    BARRY LE VA came into my life in fall 2002, my first semester of grad school, when I chose a large drawing by him as the subject for my lengthy final paper in Bruce Hainley’s art-criticism seminar. The drawing in question had been recently acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where it hung alongside works by On Kawara, Adrian Piper, Ree Morton, and Lecia Dole-Recio. I remember this because I had never spent so much time looking at a single work in a museum. Its title—Separates: Centers, Sections, and Segments: Joined and Overlaid, Separated and Exchanged in Place 1974—was

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  • Jean Dupuy, Cone Pyramid (Heart Beats Dust) (detail), 1968, stethoscope, spotlight, amplifier, wood, glass, red pigment, 64 1⁄8 × 17 1⁄8 × 18 7⁄8". © ADAGP, Paris.

    Jean Dupuy (1925–2021)

    AS A YOUNG PAINTER in postwar Paris, Jean Dupuy witnessed the rise of musique concrète and electronic music while showing regularly and frequenting new galleries such as Denise René, Iris Clert, etc. By 1960, his close friendships were less with painters than with sound poets and performance-oriented artists—some from Nouveau Réalisme, others, then unclassifiable, soon to join Fluxus—including François Dufrêne, Brion Gysin, Bernard Heidsieck, and Robert Filliou. Dupuy persevered ambivalently with painting into the 1960s before creating a breakout series of ironic abstractions verging on Pop.

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  • Karl Wirsum. Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

    Karl Wirsum (1939–2021)

    FOR A BOOKLET published on the occasion of the third Hairy Who exhibition in Chicago, in 1968, Karl Wirsum drew a woman whose head has been replaced by a mandala—not a groovy meditative symbol but a pulsating, agitated, electrified pattern vibrating in red, blue, yellow, and green. This must have been what the inside of Wirsum’s mind looked like: protean and always switched on. For sixty years—from his graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, through his association with the Hairy Who in the mid to late ’60s, and right up to his death on May 6—Wirsum produced a legion

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  • Julião Sarmento. Photo: Paulo Pires.

    Julião Sarmento (1948–2021)

    IT COULD BE SAID that Julião Sarmento’s major theme was desire. In his work, we are repeatedly faced with opposing points of view—subject and object, voyeurism and blindness, dream and reality—that repudiate the male gaze by undoing the rote equivalencies between possession and existence. The Lisbon-born artist’s evocations of bodies, often partially or completely erased, demonstrate nothing so much as the impossibility of reaching a final representation of anything; his unsettled forms cling to the illusion, nearly disintegrated today, of an unattainable, secret image.

    Beginning in the 1960s,

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  • William T. Wiley, 1966. Photographer unknown.

    William T. Wiley (1937–2021)

    LOVING WHATEVER IT IS that you clutch to your chest and call “art” means taking some care of the culture around that word and its objects. It’s a positive gesture to some kind of eternity. It means you love the making of things, and you do not fear those things, nor fear or resent the artist who makes the things you don’t understand. You care for the artist who passively refuses to take part in whatever culture he deems damaging to his mind or spiritual well-being. These are the ways I want to love and the ways I believe in William T. Wiley, who died on April 25. I first met Bill Wiley in early

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  • James Bishop with his painting Hours, ca. 1963, American Center for Art & Culture, Paris, 1963.

    JAMES BISHOP (1927–2021)

    IT MAY BE THE NEAREST THING to a monochrome James Bishop ever made. Closed, 1974, is just slightly smaller—by a few inches—than the six-and-a-half-foot square format the painter adopted as his standard from the mid-1960s through the early ’80s. And like much of the work from that period, it situates him within a broadly “reductivist” tendency in postwar American art, running roughly from the less-gestural iterations of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting through Minimalism. One notes in particular Bishop’s self-professed inclination for the square as the most “neutral” form; his

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  • Barbara Rose, Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, 1971. Photo: Hannah Wilke. © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon, and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Barbara Rose (1936–2021)

    I MET BARBARA ROSE in early 1969 in Minneapolis, where I was living for a year with my husband, the French painter Georges Noël. Barbara came out to give a lecture. She was already a well-known New York art critic with a definite aura, so expectations were high. She stepped up to the podium and, as a preface to her presentation, unfolded a chain of cutout paper dolls. She began: “Well, I’m going to have to ad-lib my talk this afternoon because when I got up this morning to take the plane, this is what my daughter Rachel had done to my lecture.” (Much later, Rachel told me that this was probably

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  • SOPHIE, 2019. Photo: Renata Raksha.

    SOPHIE (1986–2021)

    SOPHIE BELONGED TO THE FUTURE. At the last SOPHIE concert I attended, the central item on the merch table was a black T-shirt with white lettering. LIVE IN PERSON! SOPHIE LA000010302017, it announced. Four zeroes ahead of the date, four powers of ten for us to expand into, millennia upon millennia still unwritten. That was the music’s promise—that we would all make it out, that we would spill not just past this present moment, but into the untold expanses of time yet to come. Now those of us who loved what SOPHIE did must chart a future without SOPHIE, reconstructing our worlds around an abyssal

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  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti with Anne Waldman at Washington Square in North Beach, 2006. Photo: Ambrose Bye.

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919–2021)

    LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI—poet, painter, international literary hero, bookshop keeper, and publisher of renowned City Lights—is in anarchist heaven with a Buddha’s smile. He is in the poetry bardo of scrying and in Antonin Artaud’s shamanic mantras, Whitman’s luminous details. He is in the Kabbalistic night of bohemian magic and anticapitalist joy, in liberated public hipster space, where he archives his century of adventure and speaks for Everyman. A cosmic night of celestial chat in Paris, and the pounding waves of Big Sur, crystalline reckonings, political acumen and alternative creation. He’s

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