COLUMNS

  • Arakawa

    THE ARTIST AND VISIONARY ARCHITECT Shusaku Arakawa, known by his surname alone, was in his mid-twenties when he left Japan, under some kind of cloud, in 1961. Legend has it that he arrived in New York with fourteen dollars and Marcel Duchamp’s phone number in his pocket. The following year he met Madeline Gins, a Barnard College graduate, in the art classes both were taking in Brooklyn, he to satisfy some visa condition, though he was already exhibiting his work. They became a couple almost immediately, and collaborators as well, soon embarking together upon their best-known artwork, The Mechanism

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  • Malcolm McLaren

    TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO Malcolm McLaren and Richard Hell politely faced off over “Who created punk?”—a question Lester Bangs once answered, after citing and dismissing Hell, by naming, among numerous others, himself, Lou Reed, Robert Mitchum (“the look on his face in the photo when he got busted for grass”), Pretty Boy Floyd, Theodore Roosevelt, Billy the Kid, Napoleon, Voltaire, and Lady Godiva. The occasion was a panel on punk and fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, with Hell, McLaren, the designer Stephen Sprouse, the critic Jon Savage, the curator Paul Taylor, and myself.

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  • Callie Angell on Bear Island, Maine, August 7, 2003. Photo: Felicity D. Scott.

    Callie Angell

    IN JANUARY 2000, Callie Angell, curator of the Andy Warhol Film Project at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, e-mailed me to wish me happy New Year. “I’ve been traveling a lot, out to PA nearly every week,” she wrote, referring to the site of MoMA’s Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center in Hamlin, Pennsylvania, “but I seem to be finished with the films out there for the time being (hard to believe).” She went on to detail what she’d been working on:

    I just finished cataloguing the most incredible Warhol film: the 105 Screen Tests he shot of Philip Fagan, his lover, over 105 days, each

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  • Thomas Hoving

    THOMAS HOVING’S DOUBLE LIFE, as art historian and arts administrator, was in both its dimensions driven by much the same set of obsessions—a passion for beauty in its most flamboyant artistic embodiments, and an insatiable lust for the publicity that went with celebrity. These qualities prompted a number of decisions that laid the groundwork of the museum as we know it today. And this was perhaps the true crowning achievement of his famous tenure as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from March 1967 until June 1977.

    The history of Hoving’s acquisitions for the institution,

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  • Kenneth Noland

    THERE ARE SOME PAINTERS who treat a finished canvas as a virginal thing that should remain undisturbed on the wall once placed there. When I made a trip three years ago to Kenneth Noland’s Maine studio, I was surprised to learn that he was not one of them. I was visiting the artist because I wanted to view a circle painting titled Back and Front that he had kept since making it in 1960. After I’d looked at the canvas for a while, I told him I didn’t understand why the top had to be the top. “Well, let’s see,” he said. He sprang from his seat and rotated the canvas a half turn. He talked about

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  • Eric Rohmer

    Love desires nothing but itself.

    —Lycidas, in Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon

    (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, 2007)

    IN HIS LATTER YEARS, the French filmmaker Eric Rohmer—who died on January 11, at the age of eighty-nine—took on the terse, attenuated air of a Jansenist abbot. Lean, austere, his eyes a cool, penetrating blue, Rohmer embodied the rationalism and restraint for which his cinematic style had become famous. The elder statesman of the Nouvelle Vague, born a decade before Truffaut and Godard, Rohmer also served as the New Wave’s sage, resisting aesthetic and political fashion to

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  • Nancy Spero

    IN 1966, NANCY SPERO concluded that the language of painting was “too conventional, too establishment,” and she decided that from then on she would work exclusively on paper—flimsy, vulnerable, insignificant paper meant to be pinned to a wall. Having recently returned to the United States after a number of years in Europe, Spero was deeply disturbed by the atrocities the US military was committing in Vietnam, and over the course of the next four years, she created her first significant works on paper, the scores of gouache-and-ink pictures that make up her “War Series.” As she later described

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  • Irving Penn

    “TURN YOUR HEAD A TINY BIT TO THE LEFT. . . . Good, but a little higher . . . Yes yes, a little higher still . . .” Click.

    “Now what would happen if you’d put your hand to your left cheek? Not that far up, a bit lower . . . the index right on the jawline . . . There, yes there, great!” Click.

    “Could we try the same with the head much lower . . .”

    I’m posing for Irving Penn, and once again everything hurts. As I follow his directives I know that by the end of the day—no sitting I’ve ever had with Penn lasted less than two hours—the great ache spreading down my neck and across my shoulders will only

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  • Charles Harrison, Karlsruhe, Germany, March 2, 2008. Photo: ONUK.

    Charles Harrison

    CHARLES HARRISON may be the most important writer on modern art whom a good many readers of this magazine will never have encountered. As an accolade, that is indeed far too qualified: Harrison was one of a small handful of writers by whose standard the best art writing of our time will be judged. His death on August 6 at age sixty-seven, after a struggle with cancer, cut short a life of profound engagements with both art history and the contemporary practice of art.

    The shape of his commitments and career diverged from the patterns of his few peers in ways that may account for the limited currency

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  • Robert Colescott

    WHEN THE ARTIST ROBERT COLESCOTT passed away this June in Tucson, where he had lived since 1985, he left behind a body of work that troubles many of the antinomies haunting Western art and its institutions. Appraised as both beautiful and ugly, racist and radical, hilarious and tragic, cutting and cathartic, Colescott’s paintings wed such contrary terms in order to instigate a “one-two punch”: As he put it in a 1996 video of that name, the vibrancy of his works’ colors and compositions seduced from afar, eliciting an “Oh wow!” from viewers who might then mutter “Oh shit!” when confronted up

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  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Durham, NC, 1992. Photo: H. A. Sedgwick.

    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

    WHEN I FIRST ENCOUNTERED Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, in the 1980s, we were both teaching at New England schools. It was a dark and snowy night, but the friends and faculty who came out that evening for Sedgwick’s lecture at Williams College (where I had recently joined the Romance-languages department) were excited to hear the Amherst professor who had authored the groundbreaking book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985). Sedgwick’s talk was a thunderbolt. At a time when “theory” was riveted to analysis of Foucault’s power-knowledge axis, her presentation revalued ignorance.

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  • Hanne Darboven in her studio, Harburg, Germany, 2005. Photo: Michael Danner.

    Hanne Darboven

    ONE AFTERNOON, SOMETIME in the mid-1980s, I paid a visit to Leo Castelli’s gallery on West Broadway to see a Hanne Darboven show. The only other person in the room at that moment was the artist herself, whom I instantly recognized from photographs. After some minutes, I approached—whether to introduce myself or to comment on the work, I hadn’t quite decided. As if suddenly sensing my presence, she turned and blurted out: “No questions.” Then, without giving me time to parley, she left. So began what would develop into, despite this unpromising debut, a close professional and personal

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