COLUMNS

  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • Michael O. Kewenig (1948–2017)

    HE WAS/IS THE PERFECT PARAGON OF THE IRREPLACEABLE SOUL. Immensely tender, and brightly endowed with an aristocratic sense of relaxed and kind, considerate, loving, allowing entitlement. A man who loved his artists, unconditionally. A perfect Prince, who never considered himself better: better than you, better than me, better than them, or better than she. A perfect Prince.

    Sean Scully is a US–based painter and printmaker.

    Read more
  • Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017)

    BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS changed the course of my life when I cold-called him at his home in New London, Connecticut, in March of 2000. At that time, I was curating my first exhibition, a summer show called “The Magic City” at the New York gallery where I worked, Brent Sikkema (now Sikkema Jenkins & Co.). Barkley’s paintings had been on my mind since I encountered them in books during graduate school in the mid 1990s, so I reached out to a curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem and asked if she would pass along his contact information. She did, with the caveat that I promise not to tell him where

    Read more
  • Glenn O’Brien (1947–2017)

    (after Joe Brainard)

    1. I REMEMBER THE SWIGGERS, a group of heavy drinkers and bons vivants, who, before the Millennium, met frequently in Bridgehampton to drink one another under the table. Everyone had a pseudonym: Johnny Walker, Lady Chablis, Dee Bauch, Madame Glugg, Dutch Courage, Teeny Martini, Lord and Lady Hangover. Glenn’s nom-d’ivrogne was Haut Brion, and he could hold his wine. Many’s the time he carried me senseless from the summer lawn to a place of safety.

    2. I remember how frequently we discussed our ardent, intellectual, yet terribly visceral lust for Patsy Southgate, both in her

    Read more
  • Högna Sigurðardóttir Anspach (1929–2017)

    “I AM NOT LIGHT, I am heavy” were the illuminating words of the Icelandic architect Högna Sigurðardóttir Anspach, whose petite and fragile figure only emphasized her bold and uncompromising character, which was manifest in the raw, in situ cast-concrete architecture that she created. When I first met Högna in person, I had the idea of doing an exhibition on her work at the Reykjavík Art Museum for her eightieth birthday, and to my surprise, next to no written research or documentation existed on her houses. I soon realized that for my research I would need to gain her trust so that she would

    Read more