COLUMNS

  • Sam Miller (1952–2018)

    SAM MILLER'S IMPRINT on the performing arts in the United States is indelible, but he himself was an enigma. I was always at a loss for what to call him. Curator? Producer? Funder? Entrepreneur? Cultural architect?

    He was all of these things. And as well, he was a poet.

    When he was the director of New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) between 1995 and 2005—during which time he founded the National Dance Project (NDP), and the Contemporary Art Centers (CAC) and Centers for Creative Research (CCR) initiatives—he became impatient with writing the obligatory annual “letter from the director.” So

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  • James Yood (1952–2018)

    IN 1989, the same year I started graduate school at Northwestern University, Jim Yood was hired as the college’s lecturer and assistant chair in the department of art theory and practice. He had stepped in to take the reins from the cantankerous art critic Dennis Adrian, who was proudly dispassionate about anything that diverged from a Chicago Imagist tradition. It was here where my deep and enduring respect for him began.

    For the past twenty-nine years, Jim has never stopped teaching me. He taught me the virtue of the art review. As a spirited advocate for Chicago, he underscored the cultural

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  • Marcia Hafif (1929–2018)

    AT DIFFERENT POINTS IN HER CAREER, Marcia Hafif proposed a cave, a solitary room with no distractions, and a lusthus (gazebo) in the middle of a remote forest as appropriate environments for and as art. Within the contemporary milieu, such possibilities promise particular grace, sheltering us from the chaos by which we find ourselves surrounded. She was not suggesting escape, however, for she also engaged consistently in an ongoing practice: studiously, carefully, one stroke after another. Nor was this proposal insular. Hafif’s almost lifelong practice of mark-making toward seemingly monochromatic

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  • Laura Aguilar (1959–2018)

    I FIRST SAW A LAURA AGUILAR PHOTOGRAPH about twenty-five years ago, I think in a local art magazine in Los Angeles. The fact that I cannot remember my first encounter has to do not with its lack of impact but, to the contrary, with the fact that from that moment onward, Aguilar's work became a mainstay in my thinking, teaching, and writing about issues surrounding embodiment in photographic representation, making it seem as if I'd always known these images, mostly portraits and self-portraits. I met Laura, and shortly thereafter, the photographs gained texture and depth. One on one, Laura was

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  • Kynaston McShine

    I AM STANDING in Galerie Lelong, looking at a show of the art Hélio Oiticica made during his years in New York in the 1970s. On the front desk is a book that I pick up and skim, finding an interview with a fellow Brazilian who was close to Oiticica in those years of shared exile. He is asked whom the two men spent time with—who was their social world. Well, he says, we were pretty much alone, we didn’t really know anyone . . . except, of course, Kynaston McShine at the Museum of Modern Art.

    This memory from a good few years back, which I now can’t completely reconstruct—was Oiticica’s

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  • Kynaston McShine

    I DID NOT SEE the “Primary Structures” exhibition in 1966. I was living in Florence. Shortly after I moved to New York in 1967, a curator from MoMA, Kynaston McShine, made an appointment to visit. When he came to see me, I was somewhat astonished: white pants and shirt, red scarf, loafers, no socks, an irresistible smile, elegant, charming. I forgot to mention that he was black. Kynaston wanted to know everything about me and my work; we talked, a rapid exchange, back and forth. We hit it off immediately. Kynaston had a lightning-quick wit and sarcasm that would reduce you to silence. He was

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  • Josip Vaništa (1924–2018)

    IN 1959, a group of artists, critics, curators, and historians founded the group Gorgona, a clandestine association of like-minded creators who began sending transmissions into the world—most famously in the form of an antimagazine of the same name—until 1966, when the group formally disbanded. The driving force and intellectual motor of Gorgona was the artist Josip Vaništa, who had studied and taught architectural drawing since the early 1950s, though he never practiced the discipline himself.

    If Gorgona was, in essence, an attitude, a rumor, and an invocation, Vaništa was the keeper of the

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  • Helen Mayer Harrison. Image from the The Time of The Force Majeure, After 45 Years Counterforce is on the Horizon, Prestel (2015).

    Helen Mayer Harrison (1927–2018)

    HELEN MAYER AND NEWTON HARRISON, often referred to simply as “the Harrisons,” became known for their ecological systems art, which first emerged in the early ’70s. Helen is no more on this earth she loved, but we can imagine her serenity at contributing to its energies on another level. In her own words in a recent catalogue, she relates how her art career began: “I, Helen, began to invest myself in the earth that Newton had made.” But we are not obliged to take such a modest statement literally; we can leverage it by listening to the sharp wit and lively voice in scores of online interviews

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  • Mark E. Smith

    YOU CAN TELL how a trombone sounds by looking at its shape—just as you could see, in the scowl and bitter rictus of Mark E. Smith, the slashing vocal intensity that came pouring out of that face. Years of listening have nailed his words into my head: brittle consonants and yowled vowels, a spray of polysyllabic elocution cut abruptly short by something funny, something wounding, and thus moving, bristling, ragged with need.

    THERE IS NO CULTURE IS MY BRAG.
    MANACLED TO THE CITY! MANACLED TO THE CITY!
    LEAVE THE CAPITOL. EXIT THIS ROMAN SHELL!
    PARALLAX! ONE OF THE MILLENNIUM OF CONSPIRACY.
    TOO
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  • James Luna in 2015. Photo: Jason S. Ordaz.

    James Luna (1950–2018)

    I FIRST MET JAMES LUNA in 2005, when he was selected as the first sponsored artist for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian at the Venice Biennale’s Fifty-First International Art Exhibition. Luna performed and installed Emendatio (a Latin word meaning “correction”) and dedicated it to Pablo Tac, a member of the Luiseño tribal community who in 1834 was brought from Mission San Luis Rey, located in Southern California, to Rome to study for the priesthood. For the performance, Luna constructed a circle of stones, sugar packets, Spam, and medical syringes and vials. He then danced

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  • Judy Blame. Photo: Sophie Green.

    Judy Blame (1960–2018)

    SHIT.

    Judy Blame is dead.

    Blame was the best jeweler of the punk era.

    Some of his jewelry was shit.

    There’s a photo I love: Blame in a Blame, a necklace made of shit, a bib necklace featuring fake turds cascading down his chest.

    This is what fashion calls a statement piece. What was the statement? That fashion is shit? That shit is fashion?

    Who would say such a thing?

    Le Shit?

    The Shit?

    What was that necklace called?

    Fake shit is funny. It doesn’t look like shit. It looks like something that’s trying to look like shit.

    Judy Blame’s necklace wasn’t jewelry. It was something that looked like joke jewelry.

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  • Robert Pincus-Witten (1935–2018)

    October 12, 1981, New York, East Village.

    ROBERT PINCUS-WITTEN ARRIVED LATE in the afternoon. We had tea. On the phone, I'd briefly explained my new portrait series, “Art Critics.” Robert said that he would “be honored, depending on who else was included.” In the kitchen we reviewed my list. “Edit deAk was yesterday, and Rosalind Krauss and Dore Ashton are scheduled for tomorrow,” I said. “She has a mean mouth,” said Robert. “Dore or Rosalind?” I asked. “You'll see,” he said, with a smile.

    We discussed Andy Warhol and then young artists I'd been photographing: Schnabel, Sherman, Simmons, Hammons.

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