COLUMNS

  • György Ligeti

    WE SPEAK OF “live” performances, of “live” recordings—of music as a “live” art, and of musical compositions as having the qualities of living beings; we say that they breathe, are able to speak, can gesture, have particular ways of moving. And no music of recent times was more alive than that of Hungarian composer György Ligeti, even though—whether he was expressing loss and lament, rage, or hilarity—he found his subject matter so often in death.

    There he had rights. Born to Jewish parents in a small town in Transylvania in 1923, he was saved by virtue of the draft, for Hungarian

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  • Mimmo Rotella

    MIMMO ROTELLA’S artistic legacy was perhaps defined by a fateful meeting in 1958, when the curator Pierre Restany visited the artist’s studio in Rome and found him making works using a décollage technique astonishingly similar to that being employed on the other side of the Alps by Frenchmen Raymond Hains, François Dufrêne, and Jacques de la Villeglé—affichistes whom Restany had just the previous year dubbed Nouveau Réalistes in the movement’s first group exhibition. Since 1953, Rotella had been making pieces from layered posters he had furtively torn from walls during nighttime strolls

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  • Nam June Paik with Demagnetizer (Life Ring), 1965, in his Canal Street studio, New York, 1965. Photo: Peter Moore. © Estate of Peter Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

    Nam June Paik

    DO YOU KNOW....?

    How soon TV-chair will be available in most museums?

    How soon artists will have their own TV channels?

    How soon wall to wall TV for video art will be installed in most homes?

    —Nam June Paik, A New Design for TV Chair, 1973

    THE CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE of Nam June Paik—who died at his home in Miami Beach on January 29—is clear in the expressions commonly used to describe his unique role in transforming the nascent medium of video into a contemporary art form, from the “father of video art” to the “George Washington of video.” It is incredible to think that an entire decade before Paik

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  • John Latham

    THE PASSING OF John Latham, one of Britain’s senior artists (and also one of the most radical), marks the end of an era. A central figure in British art since the ’50s, Latham died on January 1, at eighty-four. He wielded a subtle but profound influence on a younger generation of artists and curators, including Damien Hirst, Douglas Gordon, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, myself, and many others, through his rebellious approach to authority, and his far-reaching ideas regarding the role of art and the artist.

    Latham’s career began in the drab environment of Britain in the aftermath of World War II, against

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  • Nam June Paik, TV Garden, 1974, single-channel video, live plants, and monitors. Installation view, Documenta 6, Kassel, 1977.

    Nam June Paik

    I FIRST SAW Nam June Paik’s work in 1977 at Documenta 6 in Kassel. Twenty years old, with two years of art school under my belt, I was hitchhiking through Europe when I came upon the art world’s temporary Emerald City. The exhibition was dominated by Joseph Beuys, whose Honeypump in the Workplace, 1974–77, snaked through the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, and who had programmed one hundred days of Free International University events. Paik’s contribution was TV Garden, 1974. It was a sprawling installation that looked like an electric, three-dimensional Henri Rousseau—the glow of thirty televisions

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  • Left: Arman with Home Sweet Home, Paris, 1960. Photo: Shunk-Kender. Right: Raymond Hains, Paris, ca. 1960. Photo: Harry Shunk.

    Raymond Hains and Arman

    LAST FALL, WITHIN A WEEK and across an ocean, the careers of two of the last living artists associated with what Pierre Restany in 1960 christened “le Nouveau Réalisme” came to an abrupt halt. Cancer claimed the seventy-six-year-old French-American sculptor Arman in New York on October 22, and self-proclaimed “citizen of the world” Raymond Hains died in Paris on October 28 at age seventy-eight. That the former’s death was mourned as the loss of a “tireless creator” by French President Jacques Chirac and the latter’s passing was lamented by the venerable office of the minister of culture not only

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  • Ismail Merchant

    FEW OF THE TRIBUTES written about Ismail Merchant—the producer half of the well-known Merchant-Ivory partnership, who died last year at age sixty-eight—have done more than celebrate his charismatic personality and his uncanny business acumen. While everyone is familiar with Merchant Ivory Productions’ meticulous adaptations of classic English and American novels, such as The Bostonians (1984), A Room With a View (1985), and The Remains of the Day (1993), and while early Merchant-Ivory films like Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and The Guru (1969) have rightly developed their own cult following, hardly

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  • Al Held

    AL HELD THOUGHT BIG and painted accordingly. Never more so than in the last years of his life, which ended this past summer, at the age of seventy-six. Among the scrappiest and most ambitious members of the second-generation Abstract Expressionists, Held was also the first to move decisively beyond AbEx’s attenuating conventions toward a bold, sharply contoured approach that harnessed the muscular gestures of the New York School to space-expanding graphic imagery. A series of works from the early ’60s thus feature massive, enlarged letter forms, of which The Big A, 1962, and The Big N, 1965,

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  • Left to right: Walter Hopps at Andy Warhol’s Factory, New York, 1964. Photo: Billy Name. Ed Kienholz, Walter Hopps Hopps Hopps, 1959, paint and resin on wood, printed color reproductions, ink on paper, vertebrae, telephone parts, candy, dental molds, metal, pencil, and leather, 87 x 42 x 21".

    Ann Temkin on Walter Hopps

    WHEN WALTER HOPPS died this past March at seventy-two, he had been organizing exhibitions for more than half a century. He began while still in school and continued right up through the spring, when he guest-curated a George Herms show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Too ill to fly out for the final installation, he did it by telephone from his home in Houston, with photographs and floor plan at hand. Shortly after the opening, Hopps went to Santa Monica for a public dialogue with Herms, delighting a standing-room-only crowd that included many of the Los Angeles artists like Ed Ruscha and

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  • Harald Szeemann

    HARALD SZEEMANN, who died in February at the age of seventy-one, was the most influential curator of his generation—and, arguably, the most influential of all time, since he practically defined the curator’s role as we understand it today. For decades, he worked out of a studio he called “The Factory” in the small Swiss village of Tegna, conceiving exhibitions that were international in scope and consistently dodging the categories of traditional museum practice, often daring to place historical and contemporary artworks beside anthropological artifacts, sacred objects, technical devices, and

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  • Philip Johnson

    PHILIP JOHNSON is not gone. The “godfather” of American architecture keeps producing the same excesses of praise and criticism that he attracted his whole life. It was his special gift always to be able to elicit this intense yet ambivalent reaction. From the moment in January 1931 that he was asked to direct an exhibition at MoMA at the precocious age of twenty-four until his recent death not quite four months after he retired at the daunting age of ninety-eight, Johnson rattled institutions and ideas. To his credit, he is unlikely to be treated kindly in official memory.

    There was always as

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  • Tom Wesselmann

    BY NOW, the works of Tom Wesselmann, who died on December 17, 2004, have become textbook icons of the ’60s. Born in 1931, he began to paint, like other members of his generation, under the shadow of New York’s chef d’école, de Kooning, before veering in the direction of Bonnard’s and Matisse’s domestic interiors. But with the passing of the ’50s, startling intrusions appeared in his work, mirroring one of the landmark rebellions in twentieth-century art. In 1961, for example, in two of the earlier entries in “Great American Nude,” the ongoing series he began in the same year, Wesselmann slipped

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