COLUMNS

  • Kate Millett with her sculpture Kitchen Lady, 1997, mixed media. Photo: Linda Wolf.

    Kate Millett (1934–2017)

    . . . and then came Kate!

    FROM MY INITIAL READING OF SEXUAL POLITICS (1970), I was a fan. I had earned my first master’s degree in literature in 1963, and no one was talking about the inherent sexism in plots, points of view, or authors’ personalities. And then came this explosive academic book, written as a Ph.D. thesis but serving as a clarion call for feminist action inside and out of the literary world.

    How did I meet Kate Millett, Renaissance artist of literature, drawing and painting, sculpture and film? When did we become friends? The answer to the first question is fuzzy. Perhaps I met

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  • Photo: Marta Kuzma.

    John Ashbery (1927–2017)

    THERE HAVE BEEN so many tributes in words, and I adore his work so much it is hard to produce something in a short time worthy of the greatest poet we have had among us. This picture sums up my mood.

    Susan Howe is an American poet.

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  • Glenn O’Brien

    IN AN AGE OF TASTEMAKERS, trendsetters, influencers, consultants, and that most pernicious of hybrids, “creatives,” to talk about how cool Glenn O’Brien was is also to acknowledge how diminished this term has become. But O’Brien was very cool, and he achieved this status at a time when the word was still both contested and marginalized. In the remarkable half century since he arrived in New York as a wholesome kid from Cleveland, O’Brien didn’t so much report on culture as actively create it.

    I was young enough to know O’Brien’s legendary byline years before I knew him. The downtown scene back

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  • Ted Purves, 2017. Photo: Jim Norrena

    Ted Purves (1964–2017)

    IN THE CONTEXT OF ART HISTORY AND THEORY, Ted Purves will likely be best remembered for the anthology of texts he edited on relational art practices: What We Want Is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art. It is an important tome (first published in 2005 and recently revised and expanded), which grew out of a conference the artist, scholar, and professor organized at California College of the Arts, where he founded the first graduate program in social practice in North America and later served as chair of the MFA program in fine arts. For those who were lucky enough to work with or study

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  • Lee Friedlander, Richard Benson, 2009, gelatin silver print, 14 13/16 x 14 11/16". Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

    Richard Benson (1943–2017)

    I FIRST HEARD ABOUT RICHARD BENSON decades ago in an Aperture article on the portfolios he printed with Paul Strand at the end of Strand’s life. From Calvin Tompkins’s 1990 profile in the New Yorker, I discovered that Benson had started his career in the mid 1960s as a camera operator at the legendary Connecticut printing firm Meriden Gravure. What he inhaled at Meriden, you might say, was a tradition of exquisite printing for illustrious clients. In 1972, he left Meridian to make his own photographs and to work as freelance halftone cameraman and printer. Over the next few years Benson and a

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  • James Rosenquist, Cologne, 1972. Photo: Angelika Platen.

    James Rosenquist

    JAMES ROSENQUIST helped define an era—even as he undid its imagery from within. His cool handling of advertising and media made him one of the key figures of the Pop movement in the US and contributed to the distinctive look of American art in the 1960s; he depicted motifs redolent of the postwar period, from Marilyn Monroe and JFK to automobiles and processed foodstuffs. But while many are inclined to view Pop as an art that unequivocally celebrated the new, Rosenquist took a more nuanced stance by playing with time and history from the very start. In fact, his signature paintings employed

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  • Cover of Avalanche 6 (Fall 1972). Vito Acconci.

    Vito Acconci

    I FIRST MET VITO ACCONCI sometime late in the year 2000. By happenstance, a couple of local galleries had organized secondary-market exhibitions of his performance photography from the 1970s, and as a young writer then working for Time Out New York, I thought of going directly to the artist for comment. Acconci had recently forgone—or lost, depending on whom you asked—all gallery representation, having publicly declared his departure from the field of art for the disciplines of architecture and design. In light of such bold pronouncements (perhaps, I surmised, a polemical holdover from

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  • Vito Acconci, Murinsel, 2003, Graz, Austria. Photo: Bildarchiv Monheim GmbH/Alamy.

    Vito Acconci

    VITO ACCONCI was already a mythical figure in New York’s teeming avant-garde scene when I arrived there on New Year’s Eve in 1977. I was bringing with me my collection of Avalanche magazines—one, the Fall 1972 issue, was devoted to Acconci and featured a picture of him on the cover, holding a cigarette to his lips and staring straight into the camera.

    Many of Acconci’s early pieces were featured in that issue. Following Piece, 1969; Blindfolded Catching, 1970; Control Box, 1971; and the infamousSeedbed, 1972, among other radical works, had propelled him to what felt like the front lines of

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  • Howard Hodgkin

    THE ENGLISH PAINTER Howard Hodgkin, who died on March 9 of this year at the age of eighty-four, came from a privileged background, went to the best schools, and became widely popular in his native land, which showered him with accolades that included a knighthood. Yet Hodgkin claimed to have come from humble circumstances, thought of himself as an outsider, and once said that England was “enemy territory” for painters. His own sense of himself was not what people made of him, and when he spoke, as he often did, of the painted frames that were integral to his compositions, it was to stress how

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  • Left to right: Alexander Nagel, Xavier Douroux, and François Hers, 2009. Photo: Alexander Nagel

    Xavier Douroux (1956–2017)

    THE WORLD IS SUDDENLY POORER without Xavier Douroux, who recently succumbed to cancer at the age of sixty-one. A curator first of all, his engaged practice led him to also became a community organizer, a book publisher, a film producer, and a friend to many inside and outside the art world, including me.

    Xavier had a remarkable knack for starting improbable projects, well outside existing institutions, only to have them become indispensable to the larger world they touched. In the late 1970s, at the age of twenty-two, he and Franck Gautherot founded a center for contemporary art in Dijon, resisting

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  • Derek Walcott, 2012. Photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta.

    Derek Walcott (1930–2017)

    DEREK WALCOTT WROTE, “ANSWERING DEATH, EACH WHISPERED, ‘ME?’” He died in March where he was born, in Saint Lucia.

    A Nobel laureate, Walcott taught poetry at Boston University. Along with poets including Édouard Glissant, who died in 2011, Walcott bore the legacy of the previous Caribbean generation’s poetic icon, Aimé Césaire: Glissant, through a philosophy grounded in pastoral abstraction; Walcott, through a Shakespearian epicism that measured the region’s history with a “hymn’s metronome” (to use one of his own phrases).

    Both writers were animated by the spirit of opacity—a term Glissant

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  • Edit deAk (1950–2017)

    I FIRST MET EDIT DEAK IN 2000, in a place she lovingly dubbed the “salt mines.” The salt mines, to be exact, were the studios of Donald Baechler.

    Baechler’s 1980s paintings were a massive influence on me, so after college, when I went to apprentice with him, I was already super excited—but imagine my surprise when this subterranean sphinx rolled out of the wings.

    Edit was like a 1920s film starlet. Someone who could use the word darling perfectly. She had a wonderful Cleopatra haircut that was a deep, fiery maroon. She spoke in a “Hungerican” accent in an incredibly deep and brassy vocal range

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