COLUMNS

  • Coosje van Bruggen

    “PREPARE YOURSELF TO SPEAK with Coosje van Bruggen,” the assistant on the other end of the line said. Little did I know what I was preparing myself for. The call came after I had first met Coosje at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles in 1981. I had just finished my MFA at CalArts, where I studied with Michael Asher (who introduced us), John Baldessari, and Douglas Huebler, among others. I showed Coosje my work and she asked her husband, Claes Oldenburg, to join us; two days later, the phone rang. She informed me that they wanted to acquire the piece we had talked about. They were the first people

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  • Max Neuhaus

    BY THE TIME OF HIS DEATH on February 3, Max Neuhaus was widely regarded as a, if not the, founding father of “sound art.” Neuhaus never liked the term, which came into circulation decades after he began using sound as a medium in site-specific installations. Asked in 2000 to provide an elder statesman’s endorsement of a self-described “sound art” exhibition, Neuhaus responded with an essay deriding the term. “It’s as if perfectly capable curators in the visual arts suddenly lose their equilibrium at the mention of the word sound,” he wrote. “These same people who would all ridicule a new art

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  • Odetta

    SOME ARTISTS CREATE visions of the future. Others illustrate how to get there by showing us where we have been. In doing so, they lay out what we are up against and remind us of our strength, fortitude, and resilience. Their work accompanies us on the journey, joins us in struggle, points out the way, and carries us when necessary. Odetta, who passed away this past December, at age seventy-seven, was of this latter group. She was singular, awe inspiring, and real.

    With a voice that was recognizable from the first note, Odetta, a woman known by one name, was a historian and an activist, a culture

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  • Avalanche headquarters at 93 Grand Street, New York, ca. 1973. Foreground, from left: Liza Béar and Willoughby Sharp. Background, from left: Alfonia Tims, Barry Ledoux, Christopher Lethbridge. Photo: Cosmos.

    Willoughby Sharp

    Willoughby Sharp, a vital force in America’s postwar art world as a writer, curator, publisher, artist, and teacher, died on December 17, aged seventy-two. Artforum asked Liza Béar, who met Sharp in 1968 and shortly thereafter founded the magazine Avalanche with him, and artist Hans Haacke, who participated in several exhibitions Sharp organized, to mark his passing with their thoughts and reminiscences.

    LIZA BÉAR

    New York, November 8, 1968

    Nixon has been elected. The CBS News Election Unit keeps a few of us expats on to do the recounts. Catapulted from London’s 1960s counterculture on my first

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  • Michael Baxandall

    “MONEY IS VERY IMPORTANT in the history of art.” Everyone was struck in 1972 by this placid assertion, so lucid and disillusioned, on the very first page of a slim, learned tract on Renaissance painting. That study, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style, immediately installed itself on every university curriculum and in every museum bookshop. It is still the first book that many people read about Renaissance art. The author, Michael Baxandall, a philologically inclined scholar trained at Cambridge University, the Victoria and Albert

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  • Manny Farber, Del Mar, California, ca. 1998.  Photo: Patricia Patterson.

    Manny Farber

    MANNY FARBER FIRST CAME TO MY ATTENTION by way of a book generically titled Movies, with a generic cover illustration of Bogie, George Raft, and suchlike tinted with cupcake dyes. Heaven knows why I even bothered to open it, but I immediately found myself reading such violently nongeneric sentences as “The movie’s color is that of caterpillar guts, and its 14-karat image is a duplicate of the retouched studio portraits that could be obtained in Journal Square, Jersey City, in 1945.” Or “Rita Tushingham’s sighting over a gun barrel at an amusement park (standard movie place for displaying types

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  • Bruce Conner

    BRUCE CONNER’S DEATH this past summer was not his first. Back in 1972, in an attempt to stanch annual solicitations for inclusion in Who’s Who in America, he wrote to inform the publisher of his death, only to find himself an entry in Who Was Who in America the following year. A more conceptual loss, of his artistic persona, took place in February 1973, when a long-planned exhibition titled “The Complete Dennis Hopper One Man Show” finally opened at the James Willis Gallery in San Francisco. Originally proposed in the mid-1960s at a time when Conner had completed two dozen or so Ernst-like

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  • Anne d’Harnoncourt with Marcel Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915–23, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973. Photo: Patrick Radebaugh.

    Anne d’Harnoncourt

    NOW AND THEN, as a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I found myself speculating about what Anne d’Harnoncourt might have done had she not followed in her father’s footsteps as a museum director. University president? Supreme Court justice? Or US ambassador to the United Nations? For reasons I don’t quite understand, this game intrigued me, as my imagination delivered her diplomacy, eloquence, and erudition to sectors of American life sorely in need of them. Perhaps it was just fun to know well someone who was fully credible as a star in any of these roles.

    What these musings reflect,

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  • David Askevold

    TONY OURSLER

    MY PERSONAL COSMOLOGY of Conceptualism starts with snakes: David Askevold’s Kepler’s Music of the Spheres Played by Six Snakes, 1971–74, to be exact. As a student at CalArts in 1977, a time when the art department was known for its Conceptual slant—in retrospect, this could have been the last gasp of the last American “ism”—I heard Askevold lecture on the work. Even when conveyed only in slides and audio, Kepler’s Music of the Spheres struck me as a stunning installation; it mixes elements of performance, music, and homemade apparatus, featuring suspended live snakes that play a

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  • Ileana Sonnabend

    ILEANA SONNABEND’S obituary appeared in the New York Times of October 24, 2007. I read it with an equanimity that took me by surprise, having assumed that, after decades of quasi-Oedipal affection, I would be laid low by the news—hardly unexpected—of her death at the age of ninety-two. Instead I found myself rehearsing the picaresque details of her life and nonpareil career: Born to one of Romania’s wealthiest families on October 28, 1914, Ileana Schapira married Leo Castelli, scion of a Triestino banking family, when she was eighteen. Always feeling bested by her sister Eve—whom

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  • Ileana Sonnabend

    I THINK ILEANA’S DEATH represents the end of an era for a type of blind support for the artist’s work and even for a type of politics. By politics I mean that she was trying to create as positive a situation for the artwork as possible, to empower it, and to keep the focus on the art itself. It wasn’t about money or the gallery; it was about the work.

    I was a young artist when I joined Sonnabend. I had produced my own artworks and was responsible for financing them, but when I began my “Statuary” series I needed a different kind of unconditional support. With Ileana, I never had to keep the

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  • Ileana Sonnabend

    AROUND 1983, I was working as a guard and caretaker of The New York Earth Room by Walter De Maria, whose office happened to be on the floor above the work. One day Walter came downstairs and said to me, “You should put a sheet of slides of your work between two slices of bread and bring them to Ileana Sonnabend.” The Sonnabend Gallery was nearby in SoHo, on the third floor of 420 West Broadway. Ileana’s office was a small room just off the main gallery, and from that space you would often see her sitting behind a big desk. Forebodingly positioned behind a high counter opposite Ileana’s lair,

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