COLUMNS

  • Sally Banes. Photo: Wesleyan University Press.

    Sally Banes (1950–2020)

    SALLY BANES was an intellectual pixie, an omnivore, fecund writer, and avant-garde and popular dance detective. Early on, in the 1960s, I became aware of her passion for dance when she came to interview me as I lay flat on my back convalescing from near-fatal surgical interventions. The book that eventually followed was Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-modern Dance (1980), a compendium of my generation’s challenges to our choreographic forebears. In 1978, she produced a 16-mm film of me performing something called Trio A, which, because I had not danced for some years while making films, would

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  • Christo (1935–2020)

    I FIRST BECAME AWARE of Christo and Jeanne-Claude from a black-and-white newspaper photograph of their work in Documenta 4, in 1968, in Kassel. Titled 5,600 Cubicmeter Package, the tall thin sculpture caught my imagination.

    Later that year, I was in New York and visited Leo Castelli’s first gallery uptown. I asked if he had any works by Christo. He replied that Christo was not represented by any galleries but offered the artist’s phone number in case I wanted to contact him (the contemporary art world was a very small fraternity in the ’60s). I called, and a very unreceptive Jeanne-Claude answered.

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  • Susan Rothenberg. © Brigitte Lacombe.

    Susan Rothenberg (1945–2020)

    PERHAPS BECAUSE THE MOMENTUM OF THE ART WORLD thrusts us all into constantly changing relationships, long friendships between artists and curators are, in my experience, surprisingly rare. But when they do develop, they can be very special. I was fortunate to have had such a friendship with Susan Rothenberg.

    I first met Susan in 1978, when I was a young curator at the University Art Museum, Berkeley (now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive), where I did her first museum exhibition the same year. It was an important moment for both of us, but more so for me. I was in need of knowledge

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  • Susan Rothenberg. Photo: Jason Schmidt. © 2020 Susan Rothenberg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York.

    Susan Rothenberg (1945–2020)

    SUSAN ROTHENBERG was a visionary artist. We met around 1969 in New York and became friends. I asked her to work with me. Working together brings closeness.

    Susan made a beautiful contribution to one of my catalogues in 1994. Reading it now reminds me of the wonderful times we shared. “I wandered into one of the richest periods of the avant-garde music/sculpture/dance/performance/theater, separate and combined, that New York has ever known,” she wrote. “#10 Chatham Square. We ate at Tina Girouard’s and Dickie Landry’s kitchen on the second floor, or Mary Heilmann’s on six. We were Sonnier, Smithson,

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  • Lois Weinberger (1947–2020)

    “I don’t practice art as a form of species conservation, though my actions are effective in this sense.”                              

    UNOBTRUSIVELY BUT PERSISTENTLY, Lois Weinberger researched nature as a cultural and societal terrain, an impulse that can be traced to his upbringing in a Tyrolean farming family and his early employment as a structural steel fitter. By the time he decided to become an artist, at the age of thirty, in 1977, the world of agricultural and industrial work had formed the foundation for a creative practice grounded in his daily life. Tirelessly inquisitive, he acquired

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  • Photograph of video performance artwork Maintenance I, 1970. © Estate of Tina Girouard, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Tina Girouard (1946–2020)

    TINA GIROUARD inspires. I do not mean inspiration as a kind of soft note in one’s own monologue of self-discovery but rather as a call to action. Tina inspires because she calls one to the challenge of living fully. With Tina, creative energy poured into every act of being human, of being alive, of being—cooking, eating, dancing, talking, making, laughing, crying, loving.

    FOOD

    Tina fed people. I remember being around ten years old and watching Tina make a big pot of gumbo in our loft on Twentieth Street. The ritual of cooking, in Tina’s hands, was a kind of mystical experience, one that in being

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  • Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, 1980. Photo: Stephen Petegorsky.

    Nancy Stark Smith (1952–2020)

    NANCY STARK SMITH: You have gone. I didn’t think it would end like this.

    But this isn’t about you—it’s about me. I’m all I have left of you. For forty-eight years I depended on you for my supply of Nancyness, accepting your various Nancy elements perhaps too casually; perhaps I didn’t realize how unique, how precious the supply of Nancyness was. Yes, just a personnel flavor in my world, some more Nancyness comes my way, and now, too late, I think, “But for you, where would I get any?”

    The world is large, and statistically there are people more or less like you. Some more, some less. But realistically,

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  • Marina Abramović and Ulay, Amsterdam, 1981.

    ULAY

    ULAY, MY FORMER PARTNER IN LOVE AND ART, died this year, and I lost a dear friend. He was an exceptional artist and human being who will be sorely missed by all who knew him and his work. We embarked on our private and professional journey together in Amsterdam in 1975. When we first met, on November 30, the date of birth we shared, in many ways we each felt as though we had found our other half. Our meeting was male and female energy coming together to create a third unified element we called “That Self.” The nickname we used for each other was Glue, which speaks to the way we viewed our

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  • Santu Mofokeng, Johannesburg, 2013. Photo: Steve Tanchel.

    SANTU MOFOKENG

     Only those

    Who have survived


    The final anaesthetization;

    Those who have enacted the final epilogue;

    Only those

    Have the prescient perception

    Of the inner idea of life

    And can partake of the spectral dance

    —Richard Ntiru, “To the Living”
    Mofokeng declares that shadow is the essential vehicle of all photographic work in general, and of his own in particular. Shadow: that is to say, by definition, the thing that cannot be seen. Namely, apart from the image, photography should be an instrument of revelation. The starting point of an ontological quest, though we don’t know where it will lead.

    —Simon Njami,
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  • Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad, 1959. Courtesy of Tamayouz Excellence Award, Rifat Chadriji Photographic Archive.

    Rifat Chadirji (1926–2020)

    RIFAT CHADIRJI, a pioneering Iraqi architect and architecture theorist, died in London on April 10 from complications related to Covid-19. He was ninety-three. He had continued until late in his life to expound his views on buildings, culture, history, religion, and Iraq. His design days may have been behind him—he had not built anything in more than forty years—but his influence on an expansive notion of modern architecture encompassing bold regional experiments has not waned.

    Chadirji was a leading figure among a group of exceptional artists and architects who, after studying abroad in the

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  • Bruce Baillie, 2019. Photo: Timoleon Wilkins.

    Bruce Baillie (1931–2020)

    FOR AN AVANT-GARDE FILMMAKER born in the 1930s, Bruce Baillie came late to cinema, but his manner belied his background—a BA from the University of Minnesota, naval service in the Korean War, even an abortive stint at the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School). Like Saint Francis, whom he so admired, he cultivated poverty, even if it didn’t come naturally to him. He adapted the manner of a college dropout, living in a tent, in communes, or in friends’ homes when he wasn’t with his generous middle-class parents. Had he not encountered, near the start of his career, Stan

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  • David Driskell, Self Portrait as Beni (“I Dream Again of Benin”), 1974, egg tempera, gouache, and collage on paper, 17 x 13". Courtesy: High Museum of Art, Atlanta/DC Moore, New York.

    David Driskell (1931–2020)

    WE ARE OFTEN ADVISED against meeting our heroes, lest admiration becomes disappointment. But sometimes, on pure adrenaline, we take the risk to introduce ourselves. When I met David C. Driskell, his status changed from hero to superhero. He also became a mentor and friend, as he had for so many others. He was elegant, measured, and funny. He was generous with his time and knowledge, and he supported younger artists and scholars. David maintained his characteristic down-to-earth demeanor while compiling a nearly unbelievable record of achievements. He was an artist, scholar, and curator. He was

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