BY THE TIME Tommy Ramone (née Erdelyi) died, his band, which came whipping out of the low, brick-walled canyons of Queens in 1974, had long since been canonized into oblivion, becoming the province of Urban Outfitter–clad interns (“Ramones Tee in Charcoal . . . perfect for channeling your inner rock god”) whose knowledge of the band’s oeuvre might well be limited to the appearance of “Blitzkrieg Bop” in a Coppertone ad. After his death, Erdelyi was rightly eulogized everywhere from Vogue to the New York Times. He had become a big deal. But the drummer/producer of one of the world’s most influential bands—and arguably its single most influential punk band—died as he lived: a champion of the working-class rocker and of the DIY ethic. In honor of that laudable spirit, here are songs by six of the thousands of Ramones-influenced bands heating up tiny venues around the world today.

The Live Ones (NYC), “Got What You Wanted
Led by drummer/front man/wild man “Mad” Mike Czekaj, this trio boasts a profound Ramones influence evident not only in their fast, catchy one-four-five rock-candy tunes, but in their approach to their craft: Both bands soldiered on for years with zero regard for trend. In a few more years, the Connecticut-born Czekaj will have marched farther than the band that inspired him: His high school band the Stratford Survivors opened for the Ramones in 1978.

M.O.T.O. (New Hampshire), “It Tastes Just Like a Milkshake
M.O.T.O., aka Masters of the Obvious, is the brainchild of New Orleans native Paul Caporino, who has been writing songs under the moniker since 1981. For the last handful of years, he’s traveled solo from bar to basement to backyard in a beat-up Toyota the color of his hair (silver), delivering poppy, Ramones-ish three-chord classics such as “Crystallize My Penis” and “I Hate My Fucking Job,” to hordes of kids, or just the bartender if he has to, backed by pickup bands comprised of the many musician friends he’s made over the decades.

Criminal Damage (Portland, OR), “Call of Death
This Pacific Northwest band is heavily influenced by British street punk (Cock Sparrer, Sham 69) of the same era in which the Ramones came up, and occasionally wields the feedbacky whine of mid-period Hüsker Dü, but the crunchy guitars are pure Rocket to Russia. Though the vocals are gruffer/tougher, Crim Dam (as they are affectionately known) can’t stay away from the anthem—another thing they have in common with their predecessors.

Imperial Leather (Stockholm), “We Will Never Die
This Swedish band lifted their name from a British soap punks use to spike their hair, and their front woman from a long-running NYC band named after an arachnid and what a friend of mine once delicately referred to as “a lady’s downstairs.” They released a spate of records on legendary St. Paul, MN, crust label Profane Existence in the late oughts and may or may not still be going: Regardless, their UK-style punk’n’roll is stripped down ŕ la early Ramones, albeit nowhere near as sweet.

The Biters (Atlanta), “Indigo
The sort of band whose members might take a dump in the restroom sink at a Waffle House, never dreaming that twenty years down the road they might find themselves employed there and cleaning up after the next generation of hellions. The selected track finds them channeling Phil-Spector-wall-of-sound-era Ramones such as “Danny Says,” which may be blasphemous to mention in a Tommy Ramone tribute, but I like to think he wouldn’t have cared.

Call of the Wild (NYC), “Autobahn
The fierce new-wave guitar solos that are occasionally scrawled all over the band’s tracks, and the almost gargled-sounding vocals only add to the anarchic power of this band’s attack, which owes much in its four-on-the-floor style to its leather-and-denim clad forefathers.

Polly Watson is a musician, editor, and writer based in New York.


WHEN I MOVED to New York in 1994, I was introduced to Lella and Massimo by a mutual friend, photographer Nini Mulas. The year before, I had worked closely with Nini for over a month, elbow to elbow, 24/7, preparing an issue of Abitare on Los Angeles. Nini was one of the Vignellis’ most intimate friends. It goes without saying that Nini and Lella—both true art Amazons—did not mince words when it came to giving me frank and fierce advice on how to behave as a newcomer in New York—what to wear, how to behave 9 to 5, how to behave 7 to midnight and beyond, which art galleries to visit, where not to go, best and worst architects, best and worst designers, whom to invite for lunch and whom for drinks. . . . They were loving but also authoritative and definitive and impossibly stylish, dressed in black and gray and navy (the latter only occasionally). Massimo shared their chromatic penchants but liked to talk about beauty and design rather than about survival in New York. He was smiling, suave, and forgiving—at least so he was at home, over a dinner of risotto with Lella and his son Luca.

I was soon presented with a different side of Massimo at a symposium on graphic design organized by Illinois Institute of Technology professor Sharon Poggenpohl in Chicago. There, I had a chance to witness live one of Massimo’s famous diatribes denouncing the ravages that early digital designers—Emigre’s Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans in particular, who created their own fonts on newly introduced Mac computers—had inflicted upon our field. He sure had strong opinions—and very, very strong words—for these young experimental designers. And he did not change his opinions easily. The querelle continued for many years, until it became the stuff of lore. Of course, time brought perspective and, movingly, Licko and VanderLans wrote Massimo a goodbye letter in which they said that “over time, we have come to realize that your critique was probably one of the most valuable replies to our work,” as reported by Julie Lasky in the New York Times.

MoMA and the Vignellis have had a close relationship for decades, through three generations of curators. To celebrate Massimo’s life, we recently installed one of our proudest acquisitions—a selection of their work for the New York subway system—accompanied by a post on the MoMA blog. The famous 1970 New York Subway Map sits front and center, just as it sits high among the great masterpieces of graphic-design history. Just like Harry Beck’s much earlier map of the London Underground, it was filled with rectifications and rationalizations that were a testament to Massimo’s belief in the universal communicative power of modernism—and of his faith in 90- and 45-degree angles. The waterways were light brown. Places were not where they should be. The map was too much: too straight, too brutal. Even New Yorkers could not cope with it (the map was retired in 1979 and replaced with one that was still abstract but less angular and conceptual), and perhaps they were right. Like a botched first-series stamp, it was a fundamental step towards final success, and it is a rare, precious artifact. It has now been brought back by the MTA—New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority—in their Weekender website, which helps people navigate the system in the days when most maintenance interruptions are scheduled. Here, its extraordinary pointedness and edge offer the perfect platform for a new digital interactivity. After all, there is poetic justice about the fact that the design of someone who was, at first, such a traditionalist turns out to be so well suited to an online format.

Massimo Vignelli’s work transcends all of the boundaries of graphic design—as it transcends those of architecture, design, and communication, for that matter. Only a few designers in history have achieved a level of influence that makes them, very simply, indispensable. I add my voice to the choir and ask, could you think of a world without Massimo’s contributions? So much of it would be visually mute, or at least dumb. And communication design would be much worse off, having missed the productive and polemical energy it gained from arguing against this giant modernist father. I am sad Massimo Vignelli has died, but more than anything, I am so glad he has lived.

Paola Antonelli is the senior curator of the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.


I WITNESSED a miracle. On November 22, 2013, Berkeley held the last symposium in honor of James Cahill to be given during his lifetime. I was invited to speak alongside two of Cahill’s former students, now all eminent scholars in the field: Richard Vinograd (Stanford) and Patricia Berger (Berkeley). The person who crashed the party was the honoree himself. Before the symposium started, Cahill showed up in a wheelchair, attended by his caretaker. With his unflagging vigor, he had largely mocked the ruthless law of nature throughout his retirement years. But in the final months of his life, Father Time finally caught up with him. I greeted him, and it was only after I pronounced my name loudly that he recognized me. Never, however, count Cahill out. He surprised the organizers with a modest proposal: He wished to present. And present he did. The wheelchair-bound man, advanced in age and now cognitively struggling to recognize faces, spoke in his tenor voice, crisp, sharp, uncluttered, with an eloquence that was unadulterated vintage Cahillian. What I witnessed was a clinical case of how a great mind works. Other cognitive faculties tethered to his large physical frame had begun to forsake him. However, the robust engine driving a distinct part of his mind, fueled and loaded with a lifetime dedication to Chinese art, throbbed on, unimpaired. The voice that filled the hall came across as a disembodied, soaring spirit, unburdened by the flailing body, as if it had emanated from the recorded tape of one of the lectures Cahill had delivered on so many occasions. That mind attached to Chinese art lives on. It is still with us, alive.

It was fitting that on this occasion Cahill spoke on seventeenth-century Chinese topographic paintings. His magisterial trilogy on Chinese painting ends with the seventeenth century. The Norton Lecture he once delivered at Harvard also focuses on this dynamic period, a subject that had consumed a good part of his intellectual energy. The master narrative he fashioned therein is a tale of two impulses: a literati mode long on self-organizing forms and short on observation-derived verisimilitude, and a professional mode the other way around. The literati won. It was largely due to Cahill and his generation of scholars that the Western readers learned and bought into that story. However, wary of seeing his master plot hardening into an overweening orthodoxy that overwhelmed other impulses, Cahill sought to erode the foundation of the edifice he had successfully built by deflating the loftiness of the literati ideal, weighing in on the losing side of his plotline, and calling attention to the vitality and validity of the professional craftsmanship and practice. The topographic illusionism of garden paintings and well-wrought portraits of female beauty executed in the professional mode preoccupied him in his final years. So it was that he gave his last lecture on topographic paintings of country estates. Later Cahill took on early Cahill. We thus see the self-renewal of a great mind capable of exalting both sides of the story. It is a win-win situation. Cahill shall be at peace with himself in his afterlife: He remains a winner, as always.

Eugene Wang is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller professor of Asian art at Harvard University.


ANNE HOLLANDER was an independent scholar and critic who transformed the way we look at art and fashion. Her first book, Seeing Through Clothes (1978), was a highly original—and brilliantly titled—exploration of the relationship between body and clothes through centuries of art history. At a time when fashion was widely dismissed as frivolous and irrational, Hollander argued that changing styles of dress, like paintings and sculpture, were “connected links in a creative tradition of image-making.” She demonstrated that even the way we perceive and represent the nude is influenced by the way artists portray the body dressed in the fashions of the day. Thus, for example, Goya’s famous Maja has the same “high, widely separated breasts and rigid spine” created by an invisible corset, which is clearly present in the clothed version.

I distinctly remember reading Hollander’s description of the nude and clothed Majas, because I had just had my own epiphany about the cultural significance of fashion. The year was 1978, and I was in my first term in graduate school, when I read two articles in the feminist journal Signs, debating the meaning of the Victorian corset. It was exactly as though a lightbulb had turned on, as I realized, Fashion is part of history! I can study fashion history! Seeing Through Clothes was one of only a very few books that I could envision as a template for the kind of work that I wanted to do.

Eventually, I met Anne, and we became friends. In person, she was not only brilliant but also beautiful and chic. I think that both her personal style and the originality of her work are not unrelated to her position as an independent scholar. Anne was never an academic. She had a bachelor’s degree in art history from Barnard College, but instead of going to graduate school, she became what she called an academic “fellow traveler” in places such as Yale, Harvard, and New York University—married first to poet John Hollander and then philosopher Thomas Nagel. To be an outsider without title or tenure is difficult but also liberating. Lacking an institution, colleagues, or students, she said, “I have only my public, and I have no idea who they are.”

In 1994, Anne published Sex and Suits, another stylish and intelligent exploration. In this book, she focused on the mystery of the men’s tailored suit: Why had this particular fashion lasted so long, virtually unchanged for centuries, when so many others had come and gone? Whereas most writers would have emphasized the relative “functionalism” of the suit, Anne argued that it was really the suit’s aesthetic or its idealizing characteristics that were most important. As she put it: “With the help of nearly imperceptible padding, curved seams, discrete darts and steam pressing,” the suit evolved into “an exquisitely balanced garment that fitted smoothly without wrinkles and buttoned without strain to clothe what appeared to be the torso of a Greek athlete.” This was, perhaps, not an entirely convincing argument, as it not only idealized the effect of the average suit but also minimized the suit’s significance as an indicator of global modernity and class identity. Nevertheless, it served as a useful corrective to the orthodox interpretation of the menswear.

Having heard Anne talk about cloth and clothing in painting, Patricia Williams, then the publishing director of the National Gallery Company, invited her to propose an exhibition at the National Gallery in London. The result was the 2002 exhibition and accompanying book “Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting.” Although I did not get to see the exhibition, the book remains a valuable document of Anne’s ideas about drapery, dress, nudity, and style. I wish that a publisher would collect Anne’s many articles on fashion, some of which can be found online. In her review of my 1999 exhibition, “Shoes: A Lexicon of Style,” for example, Anne zeros in, unerringly, on “the lethal weapon style, which usually involves a fierce high heel, often skinny and slanted in an odd direction, like a half-open switchblade.” If only there were more people who could write like that about fashion.

Valerie Steele is director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York and editor of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture.