COLUMNS

  • Left: Nelson Mandela with Alf Kumalo. Photo © Nelson Mandela. Right: Alf Kumalo being arrested at a boxing match in Johannesburg in May 1976. Photo courtesy Alf Kumalo Foundation and Photographic Museum.

    Alfred Kumalo (1930–2012)

    ALF AND I met a long time ago, perhaps in 1968 during Edward Kennedy’s tour of South Africa. After that we saw each other occasionally, sometimes not for a year or two, but whenever we did it was with a warmth for each other that we seemed to share. I suspect that that was how Alf related with many other people, for he had such an openness and generosity that it was natural and easy to be that way with him.

    To my regret, he and I never discussed his thoughts about photography and his own work. But watching him on a number of occasions at work and seeing the outcome, in photographs of acute

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  • Franz West, 2009. Photo: Markus Rössle.

    Franz West (1947–2012)

    IN 1999, I curated an exhibition of the work of Mike Kelley and Franz West in Brussels. Catherine Bastide joined me in this adventure; it took place almost by chance, and was based solely on an intuition that those two bodies of work had something to say to each other, and together something to say to the times—which were then dominated by identity politics and relational aesthetics. I had worked with Mike before, but never with Franz. We all met in Franz’s home in Vienna. The idea was to record a conversation between us that would also lead to the exhibition. I was young, inexperienced, and

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  • Franz West at the 2007 Venice Biennale. (Photo: David Velasco)

    Franz West (1947–2012)

    WHEN FRANZ WEST received the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award at the 2011 Venice Biennale, he delivered his speech with a typically Westian sense of mischief. After offering his sincere thanks, he noted that his mother had written his speech, but that, alas, he had forgotten it at the hotel. That West brought “mother” into play was hardly capricious. It can be interpreted metaphorically as a nod to his Freudian, Viennese background, but also, quite literally, as a reference to the way that his mother, a dentist with a practice on the legendary Karl Marx-Hof, inspired his art. His early,

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  • Franz West, Wegener Räume 2/6–5/6, 1988, metal, wood, papier- mâché, gauze, paint, plaster, collage. Installation view, Galerie Peter Pakesch, Vienna.

    Franz West

    PETER PAKESCH

    AS SOMEONE WHO HAS WORKED in the field of art for a long time, and who sees art as an essential part of human identity, I have always found it a great privilege to be able to watch firsthand the gradual development of an artist. I feel especially privileged to have done so in the case of an artist as outstanding as Franz West. I knew Franz for many years, and for more than two decades I worked closely with him in a variety of roles: as a gallerist, friend, and museum curator. I was always amazed by the way he continually altered our notions of how art functions and what it means.

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  • Ivan Karp at OK Harris, New York, ca. 1970.

    Ivan Karp

    BRONX-BORN, Brooklyn-bred, Depression-formed, Ivan Karp—much loved, underappreciated—died in June of this year at the age of eighty-six in Charlotteville, New York, a fading Catskills town that he and his wife, the sculptor and educator Marilynn Gelfman-Karp, virtually saved from extinction. Ivan was a prince of a fellow who played a memorable role in the postwar New York art world. He began to make his mark shortly after his honorable discharge from the wartime US Army and a brief sojourn in the still-grim Paris of 1949, where he wrote occasional art reviews for small publications.

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  • Antoni Tàpies in his studio in Campins, Catalonia, Spain, November 4, 2002. Photo: Martí Gasull.

    Antoni Tàpies

    MANUEL BORJA-VILLEL

    ANTONI TÀPIES was one of the most prolific artists of the twentieth century. His vast body of work—which encompasses several thousand paintings, drawings, and sculptures, from the early canvases of the 1940s to the final sketches he produced not long before his death on February 6, at the age of eighty-eight—represents the tireless investigations of an introspective artist who was obsessed with a handful of themes and objects, which he repeated incessantly, and who was, at the same time, engaged in continual experimentation with materials and forms. Perhaps no other

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  • Diane Arbus, untitled black-and-white photograph of Anita Steckel, New York, ca. 1970.

    Anita Steckel

    RICHARD MEYER

    I’VE MET ONLY ONE ARTIST who wrote dirty limericks, founded an anticensorship collective, dated Marlon Brando, worked on a cargo ship, and won the Mambo Queen of Southern California contest. Her name was Anita Steckel—and she was a pip.

    IN HER WORK of the early 1960s, Steckel overpainted vintage photographs to summon wildly unexpected associations and narrative possibilities. The Impostor, 1963, is a revamped portrait of a priest in a church, outfitted by Steckel in sunglasses, panty hose, and high heels. The lower half of the father’s white satin robes have been cut away to

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  • Adrienne Rich, Los Angeles, 1991. Photo: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images.

    Adrienne Rich

    ELIZABETH WILLIS

    WHEN THE POET ADRIENNE RICH appeared on the front page of the New York Times on March 29—two days after her death at age eighty-two—she was sitting just below the fold, an article on Syrian refugees at the Libyan border hovering over her. Beside her, daffodils were growing in London’s St. James’s Park; the US Supreme Court was hearing arguments about health insurance; a fossil foot discovered in Ethiopia suggested the existence of a previously unknown prehuman species. Below her, the “Vogue of the veiled”: a Turkish fashion magazine’s renderings of Muslim life; the

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  • Helen Frankenthaler

    ANNE M. WAGNER

    LEARNING OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER’S DEATH this past December jolted my sense of time, though it is hard to say precisely why. It is as if past and present have become muddled, as if somehow, in some section of my cultural subconscious, the news of the loss had preceded its actual occurrence—had preceded it, and been accepted, absorbed: déjà vu, with no shiver in its wake. “She should have died hereafter,” says Macbeth on learning of the untimely death of his wife. In Frankenthaler’s case, or at least in the crucial matter of her reputation, the loss seems to have been inflicted

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  • George Kuchar, Eclipse of the Sun Virgin, 1967, still from a color film in 16 mm, 12 minutes. Edith Fisher and George Kuchar.

    George Kuchar

    LAST SUMMER, when it became clear that cancer would inevitably take his life, George Kuchar entered a hospice in San Francisco. He brought his video equipment with him, shooting and editing footage inside what would serve as his final residence. At age sixty-nine, the underground film legend was reportedly the youngest person in the hospice at that moment—appropriate for a guy who began his career as a teenage director and always retained the energy of a gum-snapping adolescent. Even at the end, he could play the kid with the camera.

    This was not the first time Kuchar had recorded such a

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  • Robert Breer, Pat’s Birthday, 1962, stills from a black-and-white film in 16 mm, 13 minutes.

    Robert Breer

    CLAES OLDENBURG

    ROBERT BREER AND I MET IN 1961. I think Billy Klüver introduced us. Bob had been working in Paris, and he had recently come back to America. He lived in Palisades, New York, along the Hudson, with his daughters and his wife, Frannie. We had some very nice parties up there. It was pretty casual, like a little vacation.

    At that time, in ’61, I was doing performances, or what were called Happenings; in ’62, I did a series of these in The Store in downtown New York, and right after that I did a film with Bob during the summer. We decided that it should take place in the Palisades area.

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