COLUMNS

  • Nicola L. in Penetrable at the Chelsea Hotel, New York, 1991. Photo: Estate of the artist.

    Nicola L. (1937–2018)

    WHEN THE POLICE INTERRUPTED her 1969 performance, The Red Coat Same Skin for Everyone, on the streets of Franco-era Barcelona, Nicola L. followed up by taking it to the stage in 1970. Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso had just left Brazil, fleeing political persecution, and invited her to perform with them at one of the more historic Isle of Wight festivals, where Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and the Doors performed in front of thousands of attendees. In footage of the event, the Tropicália musicians play while a group of young people dance naked inside the coat. Nicola’s methodology was anchored

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  • Excerpt from the manuscript for November, by Dennis Johnson, 1959.

    Dennis Johnson (1938–2018)

    I WAS WALKING DOWN THE HALL on the second floor of the music building at UCLA when I heard someone playing the Webern Variations for Piano. I was surprised that anyone in the UCLA music department knew who Webern was, so I opened the door and there was this young man sitting at the piano. He turned out to be Dennis Johnson, a new transfer to UCLA from Caltech. I had learned about Webern from Leonard Stein, Schoenberg’s disciple, with whom I was studying counterpoint and composition at that time, and I encouraged Dennis to take private lessons with him as well.

    This was the beginning of a long-term

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  • Lothar Baumgarten (1944–2018)

    AS A GRADUATE STUDENT, I wrote one of my first research papers on Lothar Baumgarten’s film Origin of the Night (Amazon Cosmos) (1973–77), though securing access was no easy task at the time. Shot on 16 mm, it had a magnetic soundtrack and required a special projector to transmit the recording. Marian Goodman generously stepped in to assist, and the film was screened for a small, private audience at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2001. In the months following the screening and increasingly during our professional relationship (and, ultimately, friendship), I met and spoke with Lothar on

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  • ROBERT VENTURI

    MY STUDENTS AND I were in the midst of studying Learning from Las Vegas when the news came of Robert Venturi’s death. We had just absorbed an extraordinary lecture tour of his mother’s house, in all its faux–New England simplicity, which harbored so many allusive surprises; now the book, published in 1972, was revealing itself to be a profoundly American source for the cultural-studies movement whose genealogy we had for so long attributed to the Birmingham School. It also turns out to have been one of the underground blasts that signaled the beginning of postmodernism.

    The 2017 facsimile reprint

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  • ANNETTE MICHELSON

    WHAT COMES WITH VERY OLD AGE, Annette Michelson often told me, is a necessary pragmatism—and being pragmatic, she’d add with a wry smile, was never something that interested her. For almost thirty years, Annette had intended to publish a collection of her writings on film, but there always seemed to be a more compelling project vying for her attention. Sometimes it was her own: She was researching Ivan Pavlov and Mechanics of the Brain, the 1926 documentary Vsevolod Pudovkin made on the physiologist’s experiments, for a new essay until just a few months before her death. Sometimes she was

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  • ANNETTE MICHELSON

    EARLY IN 1969, an article in Artforum opened a door for me—and, as I soon learned, not only for me—onto a conception of cinema much larger and more intellectually stimulating than any I had until then imagined. I had only recently embarked on my training for an academic career in twentieth-century art history, even while quietly questioning whether I would ever have anything new or important to say about Picasso or Pop art. Given my already-kindled enthusiasm for movies, I was not sure I cared if I did. 

    I was familiar with the first academic essays about such European auteurs as Antonioni and

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  • Exhibition poster for “Robert Morris,” Tate Gallery, 1971.

    Robert Morris (1931–2018)

    HIS CONSTRUCTION of the sculptural platform for Simone Forti’s Slant Board; his naked embrace with Yvonne Rainer as they balanced on two tracks; his thwarted performance inside Column that led to a head injury; his process-based exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1970 and its abrupt closure as a gesture of solidarity with the New York Art Strike Against Racism, War, and Repression. His smug smile as he displays his penis in I-Body; his overwrought neo-expressionist series about nuclear war; his poster camping it up in a queer/Nazi pose; his active dismantling of wooden sheets to reveal a

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  • Takehisa Kosugi (1938–2018)

    IN HIS FORMATIVE YEARS as an ethnomusicology student in the Tokyo of the late 1950s, Takehisa Kosugi’s artistic field of reference included Luigi Russolo, Michel Leiris, and Pierre Schaeffer. If the first and the last are not surprising as musical models—the Futurist’s “noise” instrumentation, and the founder of musique concrète’s concern with the “variation of matter” to be derived from alternative sound sources—looking to Leiris and the Collège de Sociologie as a model for research set Kosugi’s circle apart from their artist peers and the late Surrealism that held sway in the 1950s.

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  • Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Photo: Frank Hanswijk.

    Robert Venturi (1925–2018)

    AS AN ARCHITECTURE STUDENT STRAPPED FOR CASH in the mid 1970s, I managed to burn a month’s rent on a first-edition copy of Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and his life partner, Denise Scott Brown. This book was a revelation. I learned that architectural production could take the form of a research project and book, not only bricks and mortar. The authors single-handedly inverted the prevailing logic of design pedagogy by asserting that the rarefied world of academia could gain valuable insights from pop culture.

    At the time, I was studying at Cooper Union under the spell of the “Whites,”

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  • Anne MacDonald in her Berlin apartment. Photo: Maureen Keefe and Michael Penhallow.

    Anne MacDonald (1942–2018)

    MY FRIEND Anne Marie MacDonald passed away this month.

    I’m thinking out loud, speaking to her the way I would in the millions of emails we exchanged over the years. . . . Really Annie? Is this your idea of finally getting me to write for Artforum—your obituary? But then you’ve always waited patiently—maybe not so patiently—for me to come around.

    I first met Anne in 1986, when she exhibited the Black Paintings at Artspace in San Francisco. I think it was their second show and the curatorial debut of John McCarron. Gentle and brilliant John; she was so devoted to him. He was only

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  • Geta Brătescu, Mrs Oliver in her traveling costume, 1980/2012, black-and-white photograph, 15 x 15.5". Courtesy the artist, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin, and Ivan Gallery.

    Geta Brătescu (1926-2018)

    IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO PICTURE Geta Brătescu and not see her in her studio (the occasional flashes of the traveling Lady Oliver aside). Not simply because the recent resurgence of interest in her work arrived at a time when her mobility was already reduced, a fact that kept her from personally presiding over the triumph of her long overdue Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year. Nor only because so much of her practice is thematically tied to the studio, with one of her most celebrated works—Atelierul (The Studio), 1978—quite literally enshrining its physical space against the

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  • From left: Nat Hentoff, Jules Feiffer, Alex Cockburn, Karen Durbin, and Joel Oppenheimer picket after Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 1977. Photograph: © Sylvia Plachy.

    The Village Voice (1955–2018)

    THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VILLAGE VOICE—in the spirit of the paper itself, let’s not mince words about the nature of its ending—may not have been a surprise, but it was still a shock to the system. I myself was a latecomer to the publication, first hired as a pinch-hitter art critic in 2014, and then bumped up to art columnist in 2016. At that time, a new owner promised a new era, vowing to make the Voice great again, and we who worked there believed him. Few of us trusted the self-proclaimed savior, but we did somehow, perhaps a bit dumbly, have faith that the phoenix would inevitably rise from

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