COLUMNS

  • Charles Henri Ford

    IN THIS SUGAR-FREE ERA, what artist has a life more interesting than his art? The death of Charles Henri Ford (1908–2002) puts the capper on a time when precociousness and chutzpah were art forms in themselves. In 1927, on the eve of his nineteenth birthday, Ford wrote in his diary: “In two years I will be famous. In two years I will be famous. In two years I will be famous. In two years I will be famous. In two years I will be famous. In two years I will be famous. This is my oath.”

    Not missing a beat, the poetry-besotted high school dropout started a little magazine out of his small-town

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  • Larry Rivers, O’Hara Nude with Boots, 1954, oil on canvas, 97 x 53".

    Barbara Rose on Larry Rivers

    ONE OF THE REASONS I came to New York before I was old enough to go anywhere was to meet artists like Larry Rivers. Larry was already famous—or infamous—for indulging in activities that white-bread America in the ’50s believed was a one-way ticket to hell. Everything about him was offbeat and funky. He was vain enough to lie about his age. He was either seventy-six or seventy-eight when he died this summer of liver cancer in Southampton, Long Island, where he hobnobbed with the rich and famous while still living more or less the life of a hobo. But this was typical of Larry’s endless contradictions,

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  • Frank Moore, Hospital, 1992, oil on wood with handmade frame, 49 x 58".

    Andrew Solomon on Frank Moore

    THE WHOLE TIME I KNEW FRANK MOORE, he was dying; but this made his actual death, at the age of forty-eight, even more shocking than it would otherwise have been. Frank’s characteristic state of hovering transition seemed permanent: As clearly as I believed that Frank would never be well, I believed that he would never die. He came so close to dying so many times and always managed to pull back: Deathbeds were places he visited the way the rest of us visit sleep. Like Evel Knievel, he stayed alive against the odds, almost ostentatiously, as though he believed death could be defied through pure

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  • Juan Muñoz

    IN HIS PREFACE to Naked Masks: Five Plays by Luigi Pirandello, Eric Bentley wrote of the Sicilian playwright's belief that the essentially human thing was not merely to live but also to see oneself living, to think. For Pirandello, dramatic form was a challenge to show more of the inner life of humans, to show people seeing themselves, to let characters become roles and speak for themselves. Thus, maintained Bentley, Pirandello's people “think” a lot, but their thinking is part of their living, not their maker's speculations or preaching. Like Pirandello, the artist Juan Muñoz believed in

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  • Seydou Keïta

    SEYDOU KEÏTA WAS SEVENTY-EIGHT years old and long retired when he died last November. His future as an artist lay in his past as the photographer from Bamako, Mali, who managed to portray his subjects with all their dignity, dreams, and fantasies. Thanks to his signature studio technique, his use of props, and his facility with makeup, his work always ensured that his sitters became true Bamakois: bourgeois noblemen and -women, civil servants invested with the authority of the colonial administration. It was only at the end of his career that the world discovered Keita’s images justes and

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  • Ernst Gombrich, Vienna [?], ca. 1930. Photographer unknown.

    Richard Wollheim on E.H. Gombrich

    Daumier said: “We must follow our own time.” And Ingres said: “But what if the time is wrong.”—E.H. Gombrich and Didier Eribon, Looking for Answers: Conversations on Art and Science (1993)

    THE ART HISTORIAN Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich was born on March 30, 1909, and died on November 3, 2001. The ninety-two years that he spanned were no ordinary ninety-two years, nor was the life that he crammed into them an ordinary life. Gombrich lived through the dissolution of the great empires of Europe, the destruction of some of its grandest cities and monuments, the excesses of the various nationalisms into

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  • Pierre Klossowski

    EVEN IN DEATH, Pierre Klossowski was inevitably linked with his younger brother, the painter Balthus. Almost all obituaries of the artist, writer, and translator, who died in Paris this August at age ninety-six, mentioned that his more famous sibling had died only six months earlier. Both vied in wry self-deprecation: Balthus summed up his own painting by saying, “I do surrealism in the style of Courbet,” while Klossowski claimed to be no artist, writer, thinker, or philosopher “but first, foremost, and always, a monomaniac.” His monomania consisted of a remarkably free expression of Sadeian

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  • Sidney Tillim

    SIDNEY TILLIM WAS BORN on June 16, 1925, and died on August 16, 2001, in New York City. He was an artist of great inventiveness, skill, and intelligence; one of the most stimulating critics of American art in the 1960s, when he was a writer and editor at Artforum, and again in the '80s, when he returned to prominence; and an extraordinary and much-loved teacher (he was on the faculty at Bennington College from 1966 to 1993). He saw himself, not inaccurately, as a survivor from a time when art was an obsession, not a profession from which one expected to get rich or even make a living. At the

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  • Alan Bowness, David Sylvester, and Hubert Dalwood judging the Northern Sculptors Exhibition, 1967.

    David Sylvester

    It’s hard to believe David Sylvester is no longer with us. On both sides of the Atlantic, his imposing presence—a huge amalgam of mind, body, and passion—seemed a permanent fact; and his death on June 19, after a prolonged battle with cancer, feels as unreal as the news that a mountain on our horizon has vanished.

    I cannot remember the art world without David’s looming large. Only last October, in Berlin, I came upon him by surprise while touring Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum. The effect was hallucinatory, with his dramatic figure and oracular voice radiating throughout those haunting, still

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  • Balthus, La Jupe blanche (The white skirt), 1937, oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 63 3/4"

    Balthus

    BALTHAZAR KLOSSOWSKI, OR BALTHUS, or the Count de Rola, as he preferred to be known later in life, died February 18 at the age of 92. His passing did not go unmarked: U2 frontman Bono sang a tribute at his funeral, and critics Michael Kimmelman and Jed Perl wrote appropriately admiring eulogies, if colored by a certain defensiveness about Balthus’s historical position. Other commentators, such as Linda Nochlin (interviewed on National Public Radio), could not be moved to praise, even by his demise. Speaking ill of the dead is no more popular in the art world than in the rest of our culture, but

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  • Pat Hearn

    THE PAT HEARN GALLERY on East Ninth Street and Avenue D faced a wide-open field. The concrete ruins of demolished tenements poked through tall shaggy grasses. Occasionally a dazed junkie, still swooning from a recent fix, would wander up the deserted block. Inside, the gallery blazed with sunlight. There stood Pat, high spiked pumps, high beehive hair, little print frock, talking about the art on the wall. In this case, it was Peter Schuyff’s uncanny biomorphic Op paintings. Milan Kunc showed there too, and his Eastern European Pop art fit the exotic drift. Then there was Mitchell Algus, a

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  • Paul Cadmus

    MERCILESS CARICATURIST, gruesome fantasist, homoerotic moralist, and above all maker of wonderfully crafted drawings and paintings: Paul Cadmus worked in many modes throughout his life and created so many surprising and often disturbing varieties of art that even those most passionate about his work are seldom unequivocal in their assessments. About Cadmus him-self, however, all agree: This enormously talented artist was also the kindest, gentlest, most self-deprecating of men.

    A scholarship student at the National Academy of Design, Cadmus became a printmaker, following in the steps of the Ashcan

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