Glenn O’Brien, 2010. Photo: Peter Ross


(after Joe Brainard)

1. I REMEMBER THE SWIGGERS, a group of heavy drinkers and bons vivants, who, before the Millennium, met frequently in Bridgehampton to drink one another under the table. Everyone had a pseudonym: Johnny Walker, Lady Chablis, Dee Bauch, Madame Glugg, Dutch Courage, Teeny Martini, Lord and Lady Hangover. Glenn’s nom-d’ivrogne was Haut Brion, and he could hold his wine. Many’s the time he carried me senseless from the summer lawn to a place of safety.

2. I remember how frequently we discussed our ardent, intellectual, yet terribly visceral lust for Patsy Southgate, both in her youth and in her “mature” phase. I’m certain that one reason Glenn bought that exquisite little Mike Goldberg abstraction (unrecognized at a benefit auction) was to move a few degrees closer to her. We even collaborated on a poetic salutation:

Patsy’s face comes drifting up from 1959
I stroke her cheeks and kiss her mouth
before she absconds with Mike,
dazzling in his new Lagonda,
and loud bespoke check suit,
saluting me as he rolls by,
her head already buried in his lap.

4. I remember around 1990, Glenn’s then wife, the fabulous Barbara Egan, created two life-size Greek-caryatid-style sculptures of Glenn and herself, and how difficult it was to ignore Glenn’s massy wedding tackle when confronted by these two imposing statues flanking the couch. Based on this evidence, it may indeed have been Glenn’s ample package inflating those tighty-whities for Warhol’s genius cover of Sticky Fingers. A rumor Glenn did nothing to discourage.

5. I remember thinking Glenn had too many Basquiats.

6. I remember how, at dinner parties, Glenn’s eyelids would flutter rapidly right before he delivered the perfectly crafted mot juste.

7. I remember Glenn gifting me a pair of Timberlands in perfect condition, and only finding out he had used them to research an article about artificially increasing your height when I cracked my head on the lintel of his kitchen door as I was leaving.

8. I remember how we frequently checked the crowns of each others’ heads, like monkeys checking for lice, looking for that telltale crop circle, that hairless patch signaling the advent of Male Pattern Baldness, a curse that some men find more daunting than ED (whatever that is).

9. I remember my surprise while on a Swiggers’ holiday in Jamaica, when Glenn emerged in the morning wearing tube sox with Adidas slippers. I imagined it was some advanced hip-hop styling, even though it looked more like Eric Goode channeling David Attenborough.

10. I remember driving back at night from Chris Blackwell’s estate in Jamaica because Suzanne X. was too high to drive. I followed Glenn in the lead vehicle, passing a cow engulfed in flames and other nocturnal roadside attractions, when suddenly, not one, but two tires blew out. Glenn was furious at Suzanne for being furious at me for wounding her car. But he was very cool in the dark, even sharing a spliff with the two Rastas who had materialized from the woods like ghosts, offering to “help.” We used the spares from both rentals and made it safely back to Goldeneye.

11. I remember Glenn commanding me to “go at once, and stand not on the order of your going” (paraphrasing the Scottish play, always so erudite, even in an emergency) to retrieve the Richard Prince painting I had rented out for a pittance (with option to buy) to an abnormally shrewd collector, in order to pay that month’s rent. I got it back and reluctantly listened to Glenn’s highly sensible lecture on how to succeed in the art world by at least trying a little bit.

12. I remember Glenn and myself dressing up in authentic priestly garments supplied by the photographer Sante d’Orazio for his series on artists as priests, and wandering along Prince and Mott knowing those Italian ladies who kept asking for our blessing might have crucified us had they realized we were two pagans in ecclesiastical drag.

Glenn O’Brien and Max Blagg, date unknown. Photo: Sante d’Orazio


13. I remember editing Bald Ego with Glenn, when he was eating a lot of Vicodin on account of his Irish teeth, and I was tragically becalmed by Meprobamate™, prescribed by a misguided shrink—the horrid pharmaceuticals made for some interesting editorial collisions, Glenn’s high merging with my low to produce a sublime third “thing.”

14. I remember opening the first issue of Bald Ego and turning to Sante’s steamy photos of Pammy Anderson, and the exhilaration both editors felt at having produced the first lit/art mag with an actual wankable centerfold.

15. I remember chasing the dragon a few times with Glenn, and how harmless it seemed, languidly conversing with the shades of Cocteau and Coleridge.

16. I remember being so jealous that Glenn was doing a book about sex with Madonna and allegedly test-driving certain chapters with her for “research.”

17. I remember walking hung over into Glenn’s house on Narrow Lane one morning in high summer and the stereo was playing Bob Dylan’s new album (Time out of Mind) really loud and there was a pitcher of Bloody Marys and a pile of fresh croissants on the kitchen table and four kinds of homemade jam and Glenn was typing away and quoting himself out loud as he wrote, and life at that moment seemed as full as we were full of our self-regarding selves.

18. I remember when I heard, on a Friday morning last spring, that Glenn had moved on to the next level. I took down Robert Graves’s White Goddess (a mutual favorite) from the bookshelf, lit a white candle, and read aloud the soaring, roaring eleventh-century poem “Battle of the Trees” to Glenn’s hovering spirit. All our petty squabbles and resentments just melted away, and there was nothing left between us but love and art and poetry.

Max Blagg is a New York–based poet, artist, and author whose most recent book, Slow Dazzle (2017) documents his collaborations with artists including Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, and Richard Prince.

Högna Sigurđardóttir Anspach, 2009. Photo: Arnór Kári


“I AM NOT LIGHT, I am heavy” were the illuminating words of the Icelandic architect Högna Sigurđardóttir Anspach, whose petite and fragile figure only emphasized her bold and uncompromising character, which was manifest in the raw, in situ cast-concrete architecture that she created. When I first met Högna in person, I had the idea of doing an exhibition on her work at the Reykjavík Art Museum for her eightieth birthday, and to my surprise, next to no written research or documentation existed on her houses. I soon realized that for my research I would need to gain her trust so that she would allow me access to the thoughts, drawings, and pioneering efforts that she had materialized for her buildings, which were limited in number but of unusually high quality and insight.

Högna was born into the small and tight-knit community of a fishing village in the volcanic island cluster of Vestmannaeyjar, just off the southern coast of Iceland, and she took the leap from the black and barren landscapes to the sophisticated culture of Europe to study architecture in the renowned École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She established her practice in France but managed to design a small handful of unique single-family houses in Iceland, mainly constructed between 1960 and 1970. The Bakkaflöt house (1965–68), which has been praised as one of the hundred most remarkable buildings of the twentieth century in World Architecture: a Critical Mosaic, is a fine example of Högna’s approach, where landscape, form, and space are merged into an enveloping whole, with reference to ancient Icelandic building heritage as well as to contemporary use of concrete and other Brutalist features of modernism. Bakkaflöt is situated on a small plot in the dormant municipality of Garđabćr, and the form of the house is almost dissolved: It is thrust into a manmade grass-covered hill with only the brimmed edge of its flat roof rendered visible. The interior layout revolves around a central living room with a massive fireplace beneath a skylight, which provides the seemingly closed building with generous light inside. The organic molding of the space is both horizontal—as the sleeping rooms, reading nooks, and other intimate spaces sprout from the center with floor-to-ceiling gliding doors—and vertical, as the levels of the floors and ceilings are deliberately raised or lowered to define smaller rooms within the open space. Materials are restricted to untreated raw concrete, elegantly crafted hardwood, and a bit of leather, with most of the furniture (sofas, benches, tables, bathtubs, and even the beds) cast in concrete, making them part of a coherent whole with the visible main structure of the house. This provides the dwelling’s inhabitants with an overwhelming spatial and textural experience, best described as embracing, comfortable, and warm, like an animal must feel in its shelter.

Even though the stark form and careful shaping of space seem like natural fits for a harsh, unruly environment of rough wind and varied light conditions, it is not until recently that Högna’s architecture has gained the attention that it deserves, rightfully welcomed into today’s discourse as a site-specific, poetic way of building, with precious consideration for people’s well-being.

With gratitude to a genuine architect departed.

Guja Dögg Hauksdóttir is an architect and writer based in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Azikiwe Mohammed, Prodigy, 2017, digital illustration.


MY FAMILY IS VERY SMALL, which makes the holidays a difficult affair. When one portion of our family is having a tough time, there aren’t many options for recourse. We almost always go to grandma’s house. She lives in Westbury, Long Island, and at the time my two cousins and aunt all lived on Long Island as well. We sold my grandmother’s house last year. We don’t do Christmas Eve / morning, as there aren’t any children in the family, and our gift exchange has a five-dollar limit. None of the festivities take much time, so Christmas night usually finds me back in the city by 10 PM, at home or at a bar. My fellow LIRR riders are either carrying presents or doubling up as part of a couple contingent en route to the other half’s family. The MTA is even quieter, as most city dwellers are already at their destination with the people that matter most. After stopping at a bar near Thirty-Fourth Street I was on the train home by 11 or so. There was only one other person in my car, and the rest of the train that had pulled up ahead was empty. We acknowledged each other but understood the time, the day it was, and who was out at this hour, so there wasn’t much to say. A few stops later a person wearing an all-white unbranded sweat suit, a matching white beanie, and Timbs got onto our portion of the train. This new train friend had giant rectangles in his pockets that were the exact shape of money. I quickly tried to guestimate how much money was split between these twin pocketed shapes, and what the sum was divided among different denominations. Upon looking at the other passenger I could see he was doing the same. While staring at my fellow witness I saw something else in his face that had crossed my mind but that I had blamed on the one drink I had. I knew our white-clothed money-holding friend. It was Prodigy from Mobb Deep. Having grown up in New York during the ’90s there was no mistaking this man. I was just having a hard time believing it. I owned all the Mobb Deep albums, P’s solo work, had even rebought the physical records when I outgrew my CDs and bumped Infamous Mobb in between my Heltah Skeltah and Cannibal Ox. I adopted the “dunn” language due to a story I heard that P came up with the word dunn because he had a slur, and while trying to say “son” said “dunn,” and it stuck. So he kept it. I had / have a slur that I still struggle with. As quickly as I could race thru these thoughts, get the attention of my P-spotting accomplice, and figure out how to wish Prodigy a Merry Christmas, P had assessed the situation and got off the train. The next time I would see Prodigy was in the same neighborhood but at a distance that made everyone feel more comfortable. I was at B.B. Kings. It was just P and Havoc. It rained all night.

Mobb Deep Show at B.B. Kings, 2011. Photo: Azikiwe Mohammed.


Azikiwe Mohammed is an artist living in NYC.

Jean Stein, photographed in New York, 1991. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe.


Jean Stein
Taught me how to walk out
Of movies.
Sit center.
Order the biggest popcorn.
Give the movie its opening credits
And then a minimum of three minutes.
Do you like this, Ottessa?
See me grin and shake my head no.
Then stand and duck and go.
Say, Excuse me!
To the knees of those poor souls
About to waste another hour or two of their lives
For twelve dollars and fifty cents.

Jean Stein
Spilled her popcorn along the sidewalk
Like a trail for the angels.
As if to say,
Here I am, here I go.
Don’t lose track of me
Because I am one of you.

The times we stayed,
She exclaimed at every magic moment.
Wow! Wow! Oh my God!
So enraptured and delighted
She couldn’t hear the shushes from the audience
Over her Wows!
And Huhs!
And Oh my Gods!
Tell everyone what you love.
Exclaim without shame, Ottessa.
Oh my God!
Did you see that?
What?

And that is just one thing
That I had with Jean.
Imagine ten thousand people.
Imagine one hundred thousand people.
Imagine all the things she had with anyone
And what we have with anyone.
Be it a handshake
Or a painting
Or a true friendship.
Or the song of a bird
Or the East River
Or a stroke of genius
Or an orchid on the windowsill.
Even just all the passing glances on the street.
Can you imagine all you’ve shared
With everyone?
Don’t you want to share it all with everyone?

Imagine Jean.
I wish I could put my arm around her again.
Wouldn’t you want to put your arms around her?
Because she shows you enchantment
And the heartstunning madness
Which is your gratitude for life?
For the lucky break
That you even get to be here?

Jean Stein kept a tube of Neutrogena lip balm
On her working table.
She ate cold soups at lunch.
She gave me a blue cashmere sweater one birthday.
When I had food poisoning
She stood by the bathroom door with a glass of water.
Oh, Ottessa.
Oh, my dear Ottessa.
You poor thing,
As I retched,
Grateful, in fact,
That I had eaten the bad clam that did it,
And not Jean.

And can you stomach my sincerity
When I say that she was like the shyest but most certain rose
That only blossoms in the gentle glow of the sun
Just before evening
When it knows its running out?
And that she came alive under the glow of love
Of others
For others
Like me
And all of you.
Like every single last one of us?

Ottessa Moshfegh is a writer whose 2015 novel, Eileen, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Moshfegh was a close friend of Jean Stein and the final editor with Stein on her last oral-history book, West of Eden. They met in 2007.

Sandro E. E. Zanzinger, Ren Hang, date unknown. Courtesy: Klein Sun Gallery


REN HANG, WHOSE PICTURES PROMISED a now that felt like it would last forever, whose personal presence mirrored the undying present he created for his work, is gone. Flipping through his photobooks now feels not like an act of memorial so much as the reliving of a recent memory of something that may yet come to pass again. Ren will be consigned to history only with great difficulty, as his pictures fight to remain in the moment. The brilliance of his practice lay in the way he could persist in doing variations on one thing over and over again—photographing the nude bodies of young people in composed or natural positions—while keeping a high level of energy and producing images that always feel fresh. Everyone who has worked with him describes him in the same terms that circulate around his work: young, innocent, pure, free.

I can’t help but feel that Ren Hang is better appreciated by the art world now in death than he was in life. His photography is naturally appealing for followers of popular and youth culture, but there is also a depth and lightness to it that resides in the playful aesthetic touch he brought into an otherwise mundane creative world. When the “serious” art world had trouble digesting the work, which was written off as fashion photography for a time, they forgot that his focus on nudity meant that his shoots always transcended any efforts to turn them into advertising. Half embraced and half rejected by both the fashion system and the art system for this reason, he cultivated his own unique garden in the middle ground.

In the torrent of remembrances that have been published since Ren’s untimely death, far too many friends, colleagues, and fans have insisted on romanticizing the association between genius and depression. From the outside, Ren may have seemed to lead the perfect life: He had a keen eye, a beautiful social milieu, critical and commercial acclaim. Depression, as we know, can touch anyone, even those touched also by grace. His blog, My Depression, was a tool for coping, not an attempt to romanticize his own struggles. There is no romance in this struggle. I hope that we can remember him not only as an emerging aesthetic talent committed to a language of his own, but also as someone whose attempts at self-care were even pioneering at times, in a culture that fetishizes the opposite.

Robin Peckham is a Shanghai-based curator and editor in chief of LEAP magazine.

Jack Tilton, in Betty Parson’s Studio, Southold, LI, 1981. Courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.


JACK TILTON’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO MY OWN LITTLE REALM, to the contemporary art of China, and to the rest of the world were quite profound. Jack was one of the New York gallerists who became keen on developments in China before anybody else did. His foresight there was just a small part of his astonishing ability to find artists who had yet to find wider renown. Marlene Dumas, David Hammons, Mark Bradford, Joep van Lieshout, Patty Chang, Fred Tomaselli, Francis Al˙s, and many other heavyweights showed with Jack long before they were famous.

I worked with Jack for six months in 1998. His gallery was in SoHo then, near David Zwirner. One of our shows, by “Heilman-C,” essentially comprised live porn, created by several couples, that audience members were invited to direct. There was a line around the block for that. For another show, Wang Peng brought his posse of Times Square portrait painters to the gallery to make portraits of the art world’s elite.

Jack was always open and generous. I had only worked with him for a few months when he took me to Venice, where many of his Chinese artists were exhibiting in Harald Szeemann’s seminal Biennale. After I left, he welcomed me back to his space to curate Tehching Hsieh’s first show in twenty years. He even lent me his credit card for my own art project. I paid him back, of course, but never really paid him back for all that he taught me.

While I worked for Jack, Xu Bing, Liu Wei, Huang Yong Ping, and Zhang Peili all mounted solo shows at the gallery. For a month, Xu enlivened the SoHo space with three live pigs that wore panda-bear masks and shat all over the place. They ruined the floors, and Jack would never stop complaining about it. He complained a lot, and artists would often leave, employees would leave, partners would leave. I left. But like many who passed through his doors, I also stayed close to Jack and always liked his no-nonsense, fuck-the-world attitude. He had a great eye, great passion, and a great sense of humor. Not everyone is blessed with a great temper. He would often joke that his Chinese name was “headache.”

Over the years, Jack moved the gallery from SoHo to Chelsea (and opened a partner space in LA before LA was cool) and then to the Upper East Side, where he bought a beautiful brownstone on Seventy-Sixth Street and continued to show many great international artists. I actually thought I’d see Jack in Basel next week, but while he had been successfully fighting Parkinson’s disease for many years, it was cancer that he finally succumbed to (according to his wife). Jack died on the first weekend of May, but he will live on in the memories of all that he touched. Rest in peace, my friend.

Mathieu Borysevicz is founder and director of the curatorial/consultancy firm MABSOCIETY, whose gallery, BANK, has operated in Shanghai since 2013.