Josh Blum, Mamaluschen, 1983, color, sound. Choreography by Sally Gross. Sally Gross.


I DIDN’T KNOW SALLY GROSS SOON ENOUGH. We were both born during the Depression, but she grew up in New York and I was a Los Angeles tomboy. She played games in Lower East Side Streets; I climbed challenging trees. In the 1960s, we were in New York—dancing, teaching, and learning to choreograph—but our careers moved on parallel tracks. She had studied with Alwin Nikolais, who focused on imaginative designs with space and human beings, while I had been working with teachers and choreographers more involved with emotion and narrative. When Gross was performing at Judson Church in Yvonne Rainer’s We Shall Run in 1963 (the title and the content were pretty much identical), I was performing in Pauline Koner’s trio The Shining Dark (Koner was channeling Helen Keller). I didn’t see any works by Rainer and the other radical postmodernists of Judson Dance Theater until 1965, when I began to cover dance for a radio program on WBAI-FM called “The Critical People.”

At first, I “knew” Sally only in the way people in the New York dance world know each other (it isn’t—certainly wasn’t then—a huge community). We grinned and nodded and said hello when we met. Then in 1990, when we were both in our late fifties, we undertook to perform in a piece that Phyllis Lamhut was choreographing for her company’s twentieth anniversary; Gross and Lamhut, a former member of Nikolais’s company, had been friends since the days when Nikolais taught at the Henry Street Settlement House and put on performances in the adjoining Playhouse. There were five of us in Lamhut’s Cavatina; none of us was young.

Sally’s wit: I became enamored of it—and maybe a tiny bit frightened. You might say something in rehearsal a bit off-base, and she would look straight at you, her mouth twitching into the hint of a smile, and say a few very smart, possibly ironic words that might cause you to reexamine your original remark. It took a while for me to move from thinking, “Does she not like me?” to “She’s teasing me again,” and enter the game. During that rehearsal period and in the ensuing years, the hellos when she and I bumped into each other became warmer and fuller.

From The Pleasure of Stillness, the 2007 film about Gross’s work by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile, I learned things about Sally that I hadn’t known before, but which I now understand gathered—transformed—in her work. As a writer, I like knowing that words played a part in her choreographic process—especially verbs related to the subject she was exploring; these could trigger the improvisations that were so crucial to her creative process. Someone in that film mentioned that Sally’s dances were usually autobiographical. I began to think of her life as somehow haunting (not quite the right word)—giving an edge of mystery to her succinctly poetic, seemingly forthright dances.

Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile, The Pleasure of Stillness, 2007, black-and-white and color, sound, 52 minutes. Sally Gross, Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, and Lucinda Childs.


In 2007, I wrote about the piece of hers that gave its title to Maysles and Nutile’s film. I mentioned the “clop-clop” rhythm in Robert Poss’s accompaniment and zeroed in on a section in which Heather Lee and Gabriella Simon sat side by side on two chairs: “At first Lee seems to be training Simon—taking one of her hands, moving her arm. Could they be writing? No. Soon they’re making something together with give-and-take care and concentration. We never understand exactly what delicate thing they’re molding, only the complexity of the task and the purity of their concentration.” I had not yet learned that little Sally, the youngest child in a large family born of Polish-Jewish immigrants, often sat beside her father, a fruit vendor, as he drove his horse-drawn wagon.

Gross as performer-choreographer created her spare poetry through movement in space, polishing succinctness into beauty as ringingly as any writer of haiku. The women who populated her dances—prominent among them Jamie Di Mare, Tanja Meding (a coproducer of the Maysles-Nutile film), and Gross’s daughter Sidonia—performed imaginative tasks in an elegantly designed environment from which excess had been banished. Costumes, props, lighting all combined with choreography to create images as precise as what you might see if the statues in a sculpture garden had been set in motion at a particular hour of the day.

Some of the movements in her dances were bold, but never athletic or showy. Others were small, gestural. Words might be spoken; I recall Gross, who grew up speaking Yiddish, telling a story in one of her dances; non-Yiddish speakers might not have known the particulars, but her gestures and tones brought to life what could have signified a clash of alternatives or an argument of neighbors—embodying those (or something else) rather than simply narrating them.

Left: Sally Gross, Not Everything Is Seen, 2014. Performance view, Henry Street Settlement, New York, March 2014. Sally Gross. Right: Sally Gross, Two, 2011. Performance view, Henry Street Settlement, New York, March 2014. Tanja Meding and Jamie Di Mare. Photos: Karen Robbins.


Serenity was a quality that suffused Gross’s work, along with stillness and thought-filled pauses. You sometimes felt that the performers were learning or remembering something they needed to know or once had known. But a certain terseness or bluntness militated against anything that might have verged on sentimentality. Gross transmuted episodes and atmospheres from her life into words that suggested movement and then into dance, further transforming reality. I hesitate to label the process as abstraction—which, in a sense, it was—because everything in her dances appeared so concrete, so frank, so sensitively “itself.” And at the same time enigmatic.

I last saw Gross perform in the spring of 2014 on a program shared with two other choreographers named Sally: Sally Bowden and Sally Silvers. The title of her new solo was Not Everything Is Seen. As slim and precise as ever, she entered from behind the audience striking a pair of claves together softly, their rhythm sometimes faltering. She removed a gold jacket to reveal a black jacket underneath. She spoke meaningful words so quietly that I’m not sure she wanted us to hear them. She died a little over a year later.

Deborah Jowitt is a dance critic and historian; she teaches in the dance department of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Dieter Moebius in Llucmajor, 2006. Photo: Irene Moebius.


THE GERMAN SWISS MUSICIAN Dieter Moebius, who died from cancer in the summer of 2015, rarely allowed himself to be interviewed over his seventy-one-year life. He preferred, it seems, to articulate his thoughts via an effortless facility with the tools and praxis of electronic sound. This he effected as one of the kernels of a tortuously branching root system of German musicians, groups, and side projects, principal among them Cluster and Harmonia, two of the finest exponents of German electronic music since the early 1970s.

While they may not have been household names internationally, Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, his musical partner in those groups, exerted their influence on international pop. David Bowie and David Byrne were significantly influenced by Cluster’s gently motorik rhythms and simmering textural sheen, but the common denominator and lightning rod conveying their music to the wider world was the British musician, producer, and all-round curve-shaper Brian Eno, who visited the duo in Hamburg, Germany, in 1974 and found himself hypnotized and charmed by what they were doing, ending up as a willing collaborator. “I think he was really searching for something,” Moebius once said. “He found some stuff with us.”

Moebius’s German family had moved to a small town in Switzerland during World War II; unlike many fellow countrymen of his generation, he grew up in relatively peaceful surroundings. In the early ’60s, he studied art at academies in Brussels and West Berlin, took part in various antiauthoritarian street protests in the immediate wake of the Paris student riots in 1968, and, as a keen music fan, found himself repeatedly drawn to the latter city’s underground mecca, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab. After befriending the club’s founders, Conrad Schnitzler and Roedelius, he was persuaded to join them in the formation of a new experimental music group, Kluster. The two albums they recorded between 1969 and 1971 are barely shaped chaos: thunderclouds of sound improvised from organs, cellos, guitars, percussion, and piles of precariously wired sound processors and effects.

When Schnitzler left the group in mid-’71, Moebius and Roedelius decided to continue under the anglicized name Cluster. Just over a year later, they also made a break with the city: At that time, West Berlin was still an island afloat behind the Iron Curtain. They decamped to a tumbledown farmhouse in Forst, Lower Saxony, where they discovered a tranquility and isolation that steered their music in an entirely different direction. Again they utilized an assemblage of electronic and acoustic instruments, prototype sequencers, drum machines, and self-devised recording methods. Part of Moebius’s enduring appeal is the fact that it’s almost impossible to pinpoint his precise contributions to much of the music he was involved with. Instead, he hovers over it and drifts among it like some amorphous urge.

In 1973, the duo was joined by another renegade from the city, Michael Rother, the guitarist from German group Neu! and a member of the original incarnation of Kraftwerk. Like Cluster, he had dropped out of urban life (in Düsseldorf) and was looking for new inspiration in retreat. Together the trio wrote and recorded as Harmonia, a name that suggested the very mythical spirit of music itself. At the end of that year, they recorded Musik von Harmonia, a series of sonic vignettes in which the anarchic impulses of Kluster/Cluster were refined and channeled into controlled, Apollonian mechanics and repetitive electronic melodies with soft, synthetic textures. Moebius exercised his visual-art skills, too, designing and painting the fantastic Pop art–style cover image that resembled an advertisement for cleaning fluid. It’s one of the great krautrock LP sleeves, and the implication of a clean slate for German pop was hard to resist.

Harmonia quietly played live dates in 1974 and released a follow-up, Deluxe (1975). In their wonderfully productive pastoral haven, Harmonia and Cluster pumped out music like a small organic processing plant, without much commercial impact. But people out there were listening, among them Brian Eno, who had just left Roxy Music and was in search of a new direction. He visited the group in the forest, sharing in their back-to-nature lifestyle and embarking on a series of collaborations, including Cluster & Eno (1977) and After the Heat (1978). Eno immediately applied what he had learned to his collaborations with Bowie on the so-called Berlin albums, Low, “Heroes,” and Lodger (1977–79), and to his own Before and After Science (1977).

Dieter Moebius Live at Electro-Mechanica Festival, 2011

Cluster temporarily faded out in the early ’80s, just as Moebius began the long line of coproductions and collective unions in which he specialized for the remainder of his life. There was something pointedly democratic and ego-shedding about his casual radicalism, the way he acted as a catalyst within so many projects. There were the duo albums with famed producer Conny Plank, Rastakraut Pasta (1980) and Material (1981). That pair also carried out intriguing collaborations such as the dynamic Zero Set (1983) with drummer Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru, and Ludwig’s Law (recorded 1983, released 1998) with US musician and artist Mayo Thompson of Red Krayola. Cluster found their way back to each other, on and off, for the remaining three decades, culminating in live shows and the excellent album Qua (2009). In the meantime, Moebius kept his torch glimmering, his synths humming, this time in unison with thousands of other young digital musicians worldwide whose passages have been eased by the early efforts of Cluster and their ilk. He was active right up to the end, spending half his time in Andalusia, Spain, touring a live sound track of Fritz Lang’s early sci-fi silent Metropolis (1927) and releasing a final solo album, Nidemonex, in 2014.

In all that time, the name Moebius appended to an album or concert billing imparted sophistication, refined sound artistry, and decades of experience. And there was the distant flavor of the European exotic: the musician as scientist, ungraspable as the infinite, dimension-defying strip with which he shared a name. Above all, this revolutionary futurist quietly helped to disperse lingering memories of the harsh, steel rhetoric of midcentury German power.

Rob Young is a writer, critic, and contributing editor of The Wire. He is currently writing a biography of the German group Can.

Takuma Nakahira at home in Yokohama, c. 2004. Photo: Takashi Homma.


DESPITE A PERVASIVE LACK of familiarity with his work, Takuma Nakahira has long been regarded as an icon of Japanese photography. His legendary role in defining an are-bure-boke (grainy, blurry, and out of focus) photography as cofounder of Provoke, the influential Japanese photography magazine synonymous with this style, seemingly outweighed the critical significance of Nakahira’s writings and post-Provoke photography. Fortunately, the contours of his work have been made gradually more clear after a decade of important exhibitions and publications in Japan, paving the way for a deeper appreciation of the scope of Nakahira’s oeuvre worldwide.

At the time of his death at the age of seventy-seven this September, we were just experiencing an invigorating re-encounter with Nakahira’s work. In this year’s groundbreaking exhibitions—“For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography 1968–1979,” curated by Yasufumi Nakamori at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and “Things: Rethinking Japanese Photography and Art in the 1970s,” curated by Rei Masuda at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo—we have discovered firsthand how Nakahira’s work emerged from the expanding horizons of exchange among art, cinema, photography, architecture, and critical discourse in and after 1970. It seems we are somehow better prepared now to grasp the profound concerns driving the perpetual evolution of Nakahira’s thought and practice, including his desire to question what even constitutes photography, and the ways in which photography can be made to contest the workings of power.

Nakahira started out as an editor for a left-wing journal in the mid-’60s, but left this post to help organize a major historical survey of Japanese photography at the invitation of photographer Shōmei Tōmatsu. As he transitioned into being a full-time photographer in the late ’60s, often collaborating with Daidō Moriyama and the poet-playwright Shuji Terayama, Nakahira sought to test photography’s capacity to engage with and incite critical thought. Nakahira’s singular role as a prolific photographer and thinker was forged with his work in publishing Provoke, cofounded with critic Kōji Taki, photographer Yutaka Takanashi, and poet Takahiko Okada.

That his photographs for Provoke were at times are-bure-boke was not simply an attempt to forge a new photographic style. Nakahira’s work should instead be understood as the photochemical residue of his provocations between the camera and the flux of urban materiality—as the remnants of a relentless interrogation of the shifting terrain of power. With his 1970 photobook For a Language to Come, he sought a critical vocabulary to contend with the reactionary violence of capitalist state power that emerged in the wake of the worldwide upheavals of 1968, documenting the molten forces unleashed as Japan’s urban landscape underwent the simultaneous construction and destruction of Cold War–fueled growth. It is a significant—but often ignored—fact that Nakahira would immediately abandon the Provoke look by 1971, for it had already been seamlessly subsumed within the workings of the very image economy that Nakahira vigorously critiqued.

  • Takuma Nakahira, Plate No. C-110, 1971, gelatin silver print. From the series “Circulation Date, Place, Events,” 1971. © Takuma Nakahira, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

  • Takuma Nakahira, Plate No. C-020, 1971, gelatin silver print. From the series “Circulation Date, Place, Events,” 1971. © Takuma Nakahira, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

  • Takuma Nakahira, Plate No. C-153, 1971, gelatin silver print. From the series “Circulation Date, Place, Events,” 1971. © Takuma Nakahira, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

  • Takuma Nakahira, Plate No. C-255, 1971, gelatin silver print. From the series “Circulation Date, Place, Events,” 1971. © Takuma Nakahira, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

In response, Nakahira’s work underwent a decisive change between 1971 and ’74, as he turned to investigate the flows of things, bodies, and information that inundated the urban experience, in works such as his process-based installation Circulation: Date, Place, Events, for the 1971 Paris Biennale. An outpouring of color photography followed, with images that traversed the sprawling Tokyo metropolitan area and extended to the islands of Okinawa, occupied to this day by the Japanese and US military. These interrogations of Japan’s changing urban and political environments were the basis of both Nakahira’s first collections of trenchant media criticism, Why an Illustrated Botanical Dictionary?, published in 1973, and his large-scale photography installation Overflow in 1974. Nakahira would produce his most refined thinking on photography in 1977 through a stunning collaboration with photographer Kishin Shinoyama in Duel on Photography. This collection of Nakahira’s writings and Shinoyama’s photographs was published just after Nakahira was tragically stricken with memory loss and aphasia at the age of thirty-nine. While Nakahira ceased writing, he continued to push his photography into uncharted terrain throughout his subsequent photobooks (A New Gaze, 1983, Adieu à X, 1989, and Documentary, 2011) and in recent gallery and museum exhibitions.

Nakahira’s life reveals the traces of a remarkable struggle to pursue the provocative questions disclosed in his writings and photography, questions that afforded a means of perpetually reinventing himself through what he described as the camera’s capacity for “dismantling and regenerating one’s consciousness.” Today, Japanese photography is gaining new international attention, while the country is entering a new phase of urban reconstruction and remilitarization, both of which betray a much larger shift in the workings of the nation-state and capital in the present. Perhaps now, more than ever, we have much to learn from Nakahira and the questions raised through his work.

“For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979” is up through Jan. 10 at Japan Society, New York.

Franz Prichard is an assistant professor in the department of East Asian studies at Princeton University and is currently completing a manuscript on the rapid transformation of Japanese cultural practice in the 1960s and ’70s.

Salvo in Turin, 1982. Photo: Cristina Tuarivoli.


IT WAS 1975, and although very young, I still remember the annoyance I felt at seeing a very small image of San Giorgio e il Drago (Saint George and the Dragon) by Salvo, published in the weekly column of a popular magazine. I was already hanging out in the art world—my father was an artist of some renown in Italy—and while the reproduction of that work was scarcely bigger than a stamp and one amid many others on a page with art-world announcements, its pastel colors seemed scandalous to me, in light of the reigning Conceptualism, analytical rigor, and “black-and-white” aesthetic of those years.

Well, it was precisely this “scandal” on the part of an artist who until then had been a more or less “canonical” Conceptualist who “towed the line” but who had turned to painting, and, what is more, to folkloric and religious imagery, that should have given me pause. It took some years for this to happen, and the work still resonates for me today as one of the strongest critical warnings that comes to mind every time I find myself looking at art I don’t understand and might attempt to dismiss as “passé,” and which, instead, might presage a possible future.

Salvo, San Giorgio e il drago, da Raffaello (Saint George and the Dragon with Raphael), 1974, oil on board, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2". Courtesy Mehdi Chouakri Gallery, Berlin.


This is precisely what this work by Salvo was: a harbinger of the 1980s, with its triumph of painting, chromatic impudence, and rehabilitation of popular images, which in turn were borrowed from art history (in the case of his Saint George, the model was Raphael), or from postcards. From that moment on, Salvo—who never wanted to belong to any movement but who could have been a leader of the Transavanguardia—gifted us with infinite landscapes, foreshortened city views, places without people, almost all small scale, more or less as big as the square backdrops used by strolling balladeers who, for a few decades more, could still be seen in Sicily, where he was born in 1947.

These are images that constantly surface, during both his Conceptual and pictorial periods. Indeed, his work contains perennial references to this island, so strongly marked by traditions, whether when he lists on a marble plaque the names of all the great Sicilians (with his own name as the final entry), or when he paints a stereotypical image of the Magna Grecia temples of Agrigento, Italy, conveying the same visual image as photographs used in ads. In fact, beginning in the mid ’70s, Salvo became a prolific and successful producer of paintings, all constructed according to a chromatic scale very close to the one associated with postmodern design and architecture. In this choice of his, to be a producer of paintings (the definition is mine, not his) instead of a painter (another somewhat emphatic concept, again mine), we might prefer to see yet another, very subtle conceptual action that addresses the new idea of art and the world that emerged in the ’80s, rather than to see a market-driven activity for which many have reproached him.

Marco Meneguzzo is an independent curator and teacher at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Salvo, Benedizione di Lucerna (Blessing of Lucerne), 1970-1975, photo mounted on aluminium, 43 x 35".


SALVO IS DEAD.

I remember going to Turin to greet him, our next-to-last meeting. (We’ll have our final visit before long, when I join him in heaven.) We didn’t have time to discuss the greasy beef in Carrù or the cheese in Castelmagno, the pink evening clouds or the Tour de France, oranges seen from below amid the leaves, or the holiday lights in Lucca, Ilaria del Carretto’s city, in Jacopo della Quercia’s famous sculptural masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.

Salvo was all this, along with his proddings and instigations. Once, wonderfully, he said to me, point blank, “Tell me the names of all the African countries along the coast and their capitals, in counter-clockwise order.” Obviously he was ready: Of course he knew the complete list in advance.

I don’t know how his transition to avant-garde painting and back occurred in just four years. One day he had enough of bundles of wood, neon, stones. Surely he was influenced by a chance encounter with Giorgio de Chirico in Rome. They locked eyes, one knowing nothing about the other, the other, instead, knowing a lot about the master. Salvo described this episode to me while we were watching the arrival of a stage of the Tour. With him, art and life mixed happily. When I would leave his house, I never failed to stop by the nearby bakery, to take home their famous breadsticks—a sign of “Turinosity”—at the end of Via Artisti. This, too, seemed like a sign of fate.

Salvo died today: And with him, our youth. Truly, he had already been gone for some time, but we hadn’t noticed, or perhaps we had only dismissed the thought. “SALVO É VIVO / SALVO É MORTO” (Salvo is alive / Salvo is dead), read a work from the artist’s Conceptual/Arte Povera period. “IO SONO IL MIGLIORE” (I am the best), read another phrase, carved, like other words, into marble: “IDIOTA” (idiot), “RESPIRARE IL PADRE” (to breathe the father). Or “SALVO,” written in neon in the colors of the Italian flag, and painted on a newspaper. That Salvo is no longer seems impossible, but a September text moved forward the hands of the clock of our life. A passing that hits us more than so many others.

He, former bad boy rebel, from Sanremo to Turin, who fell in love with Cristine, went into a gallery one day as a painter, emerged as an artist. He forged ahead in only a few months, participating in the latest Arte Povera shows and galleries. He worked with photography, marble, phrases, neon, tricolor flags, and then, after four years or so, having enjoyed all these opportunities, he returned to painting. Invited to participate in Harald Szeemann’s Documenta 5 in 1972, he did not contribute works, but only his name in the catalogue, printed larger than the others.

Salvo, San Martino e il Povero (St. Martin and the Pauper), 1974, oil on paper applied to canvas, 9' x 74".


After Documenta, he got down to painting. His first paintings are clear: Saint George and the dragon, Sicily, and mythological subjects. He was a great autodidact, ready to place a bet, and had a great affection for de Chirico, for the Giro d’Italia, billiards, TV. He painted for himself, given that not everyone in his milieu approved of his change in direction. He found other friends, stopped doing Conceptual work, abandoned the galleries of that world.

We were very close for ten years and then gradually drifted apart, but we always kept an eye on each other. I was thinking about him just yesterday, looking at his Ciclamini di Persia (Persian Cyclamen) from 1975, which I keep at home out of affection, pleasure, admiration. And now also to remember a fellow traveler for a long stretch of a brief life.

Massimo Minini is an art dealer who has run Galleria Massimo Minini for more than forty years in Brescia, Italy.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Paul Reed with his painting Coherence, 1966, at the National Gallery of Art in 2012. Photo Kerry Rose.


WHEN I THINK OF the American artist Paul Reed, the image imprinted on my mind is the massive, dazzling #1D, 1965, in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. It’s a visual feast: Triangles of optically jarring red-orange and fuchsia strain against the upper-right and lower-left quadrants of an intense, hot-pink field. A translucent olive-colored disc floats in the center, at once admitting and suppressing the color underneath. Reed’s work is celebrated for eliciting a sense of vibrancy from complex color combinations even when areas of thinned pigment overlap, demonstrating his mastery over the unpredictable acrylic medium.

Reed, who passed away on September 26, was a renowned painter of the Washington Color School, a visual-arts renaissance occurring in an unlikely place around and just after the Kennedy White House years. Color School painters were especially known for soaking and staining raw canvas with thinned acrylic paint in ebullient shades, oftentimes shaped into restrained geometries. This dispassionate aesthetic defined “cool” in the 1960s.

Paul Reed, #1D, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 68 x 94." Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum.


A superior draftsman, Reed worked as a graphic designer for various advertising and publications agencies in New York City from 1944 to ’50. Ready to strike out on his own as a freelancer, he moved back to his native Washington and found a city energized by new opportunities for artistic expression. The conversation in those years was all about paint, particularly the shift from traditional oils to new, fast-drying synthetics. Reed revived a childhood friendship with Gene Davis, an artist in the scene, and decided to pursue painting seriously. It would be over a decade of dedication to his studio practice before Reed showed his work in a solo show. He debuted at the Adams-Morgan Gallery in Washington in January 1963, with another show to follow that same year at the East Hampton Gallery in New York. In 1964, he had a one-man show at the Jefferson Place Gallery, a legendary art space that was responsible for introducing major figures in contemporary art to Washingtonians.

Reed’s early work, like the aforementioned #1D, sustained the interplay between graphic elements and painterly ones and an innovative use of the “fragment,” which became one of his important motifs. These tensions between color and shape motivated Reed to employ zigzags and lattices in later works. By 1967, he was liberated from the rectangular format; bold, diagonal rays of color exploded against the edges of irregular quadrilaterals and other polygons.

Paul Reed, Barcelona #4, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72". Photo: David Richard Gallery, Santa Fe. Copyright © Paul Reed Estate.


It should be noted that from 1962 to ’71, the same period in which his reputation as a painter was made, Reed also worked for the Peace Corps as the graphic designer in charge of publications. He stepped down to begin teaching painting full-time at the Corcoran School of Art. As a professor, Reed enchanted generations of students with his erudition and quick wit.

Leaving his studio in 1972, Reed pursued work at a more intimate scale that he could execute at home, including works on paper and collage. This method was, in a sense, a return to the practice of “thumbnail” studies produced as far back as the ’50s: small preparatory pieces he used to work out formal interactions between color and shape. His more recent collages reveal a surprisingly Dadaist aesthetic, however, juxtaposing photography and bits of ephemera with elaborate, abstract graphics drawn in ink or pastel on paper. As recently as the ’90s, Reed worked with gouache on paper, returning to the colors and dynamic compositions more familiar to his iconic works of fifty years previous. He returned to painting on canvas in the late ’90s.

The retrospective mood of art history in the last several years favored Reed, as he was the subject of numerous exhibitions, particularly in the DC area. That Washington is undergoing something of another renaissance is no secret; the city is fresh with progressive cultural ideas and new attractions. Perhaps Reed’s passing will inspire artists and intelligentsia in the District today to follow the spirit of experimentation that can come with such change, and to do so with his special tenacity.

Miguel de Baca is an associate professor of art history at Lake Forest College and is the author of Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture (University of California Press, 2015).

Marion “Kippy” Stroud at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, c. 1980.


THE FIRST TIME I visited Kamp Kippy—shortly after the Fabric Workshop and Museum hosted an exhibition titled “Secret Victorians” that I had cocurated in 2001—I was immediately whisked into an expedition to Cranberry Island. “We ordered another sandwich. Get in.” The silver Volvo was apparently Kippy’s office—and kennel—on wheels. A spot was cleared for me to sit up front amid papers, faxes, FedEx envelopes, tide charts, timetables, boat and plane schedules, real-estate listings, maps, rolls of blue tape. Forrest Gump, Kippy’s giant pet retriever, sat caged in the back. Abruptly Kippy yanked the car to the side of the road—“The reception is always good in this spot”—and made a call. “Tell John that I want him to give his lecture tomorrow night after dinner,” she instructed. We drove to a dock where Eakins scholar Darrel Sewell was waiting with the sandwiches. We all boarded a boat that ferried us to the island. We walked up a hill to a trim modern house with a blue door, where Kippy’s friend the artist Edna Andrade greeted us. It was providential, as so many encounters at Kamp Kippy were meant to be: In 2003, Edna’s optical paintings were the subject of an exhibition I initiated with curator Debra Balken, whom I also met that summer in Maine. After lunch, we looked at Edna’s drawings of Maine’s rocky shoreline, rendered with all the extraordinary precision of Edna herself. “Try and get here when you say you will next time,” she told Kippy, clearly ready for us to leave so she could get back to work. Back in the boat, Kippy pulled out a ziplock bag full of bills. “I wanted to make sure you came back for us before paying,” she told the captain as he landed us back at shore.

Startling. Direct. Transactional. Visionary. Kippy’s support of artists, art historians, curators, architects, museums was a world unto itself. I am lucky to have visited the island where she created her summer camp in Maine—most recently and sadly this last summer—and to have worked in Philadelphia, where the Fabric Workshop and Museum has been a historic and singular space for artists to stretch, grow, and show their work since 1977. Her patronage was as profound as Kippy was unique. Through the works of Kara Walker, Richard Tuttle, Beverly Semmes, Laura Owens, Virgil Marti, Rick Lowe, Joan Jonas, Ann Hamilton, Terry Allen, to name but a few of the many artists whose projects she passionately believed in, as well as the countless exhibitions and institutions she funded, Kippy helped to build an art world that we inhabit today.

Ingrid Schaffner is a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and curator of the 2018 Carnegie International.