• Santu Mofokeng, Johannesburg, 2013. Photo: Steve Tanchel.


     Only those

    Who have survived

    The final anaesthetization;

    Those who have enacted the final epilogue;

    Only those

    Have the prescient perception

    Of the inner idea of life

    And can partake of the spectral dance

    —Richard Ntiru, “To the Living”
    Mofokeng declares that shadow is the essential vehicle of all photographic work in general, and of his own in particular. Shadow: that is to say, by definition, the thing that cannot be seen. Namely, apart from the image, photography should be an instrument of revelation. The starting point of an ontological quest, though we don’t know where it will lead.

    —Simon Njami,
    Read more
  • Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad, 1959. Courtesy of Tamayouz Excellence Award, Rifat Chadriji Photographic Archive.

    Rifat Chadirji (1926–2020)

    RIFAT CHADIRJI, a pioneering Iraqi architect and architecture theorist, died in London on April 10 from complications related to Covid-19. He was ninety-three. He had continued until late in his life to expound his views on buildings, culture, history, religion, and Iraq. His design days may have been behind him—he had not built anything in more than forty years—but his influence on an expansive notion of modern architecture encompassing bold regional experiments has not waned.

    Chadirji was a leading figure among a group of exceptional artists and architects who, after studying abroad in the

    Read more
  • Bruce Baillie, 2019. Photo: Timoleon Wilkins.

    Bruce Baillie (1931–2020)

    FOR AN AVANT-GARDE FILMMAKER born in the 1930s, Bruce Baillie came late to cinema, but his manner belied his background—a BA from the University of Minnesota, naval service in the Korean War, even an abortive stint at the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School). Like Saint Francis, whom he so admired, he cultivated poverty, even if it didn’t come naturally to him. He adapted the manner of a college dropout, living in a tent, in communes, or in friends’ homes when he wasn’t with his generous middle-class parents. Had he not encountered, near the start of his career, Stan

    Read more
  • David Driskell, Self Portrait as Beni (“I Dream Again of Benin”), 1974, egg tempera, gouache, and collage on paper, 17 x 13". Courtesy: High Museum of Art, Atlanta/DC Moore, New York.

    David Driskell (1931–2020)

    WE ARE OFTEN ADVISED against meeting our heroes, lest admiration becomes disappointment. But sometimes, on pure adrenaline, we take the risk to introduce ourselves. When I met David C. Driskell, his status changed from hero to superhero. He also became a mentor and friend, as he had for so many others. He was elegant, measured, and funny. He was generous with his time and knowledge, and he supported younger artists and scholars. David maintained his characteristic down-to-earth demeanor while compiling a nearly unbelievable record of achievements. He was an artist, scholar, and curator. He was

    Read more
  • Michael Sorkin. Photo: Aundre Larrow.

    Michael Sorkin (1948–2020)

    I LOST A FRIEND, AND CITIES LOST THEIR FIERCEST, MOST PASSIONATE ADVOCATE with Michael Sorkin’s death from the coronavirus. He was one of only a few friends whom I consider—considered—brilliant: skillful beyond belief with words, master of arcane knowledge, and always quicker than anyone else at making connections. The sensuality of nature and angular modernity; vulgarity, narcissism, and a taste for autocracy. Dreams of a just society and projects that made artists and intellectuals feel they could really create one. Michael was always on the front lines, yet he was also off to the side, both

    Read more
  • Ulay with Thomas McEvilley, Eric Orr, and James Lee Byars, ca. mid-1990s. © Ulay.

    Ulay (1943–2020)

    IT IS PROBABLY THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH OF HIS I ever encountered. I saw it during my initial visit with Ulay, in 2009 in Amsterdam, where we were beginning to prepare the exhibition “Become,” at Škuc Gallery, in Ljubljana. At that time I recognized only James Lee Byars (that telltale cylinder hat) but eventually learned that Thomas McEvilley and Eric Orr, all close friends of Ulay’s, are also in the photo. And hiding behind the slab of wood is Ulay himself.

    I would see this image on several other occasions, all in Ulay’s company. The last time was less than a year ago, when he was reminiscing about

    Read more
  • Suellen Rocca, 1966.

    Suellen Rocca (1943–2020)

    WHEN I HEARD of Suellen’s passing, I thought back to my first meeting with her. As I recall, she wasn’t at the get-together we had for the planning of the first Hairy Who show. So I did the “grown-up lady thing” and invited her for lunch, even though my kitchen skills were severely lacking. No matter, it was getting to know each other that was important. I served a packaged soup, but didn’t stir in the required amount of water, so it was sort of lumpy, powdery, and weird. Suellen was gracious and such a good sport, laughing with me, not at me. We gradually choked it all down.

    She was kind,

    Read more
  • David Hockney, For Paul With Love David, 1965, colored crayon on paper, 19 7/8 x 15 7/8".  © David Hockney. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

    Paul Kasmin (1960–2020)

    I KNEW PAUL KASMIN ALL HIS LIFE. When Paul was a small baby, his father used to have a Tuesday evening soirée, where I met a lot of people, David Sylvester and Francis Bacon among them. And then, in the late ’60s, we used to go to a chateau in the Dordogne at Carennac, which Kas rented every summer. Paul was then seven or eight years old. I always loved him. He used to come and see me in London, then Paris, and then many times in California. From his father he inherited a fabulous eye—the gallery he opened in New York proved it. It was flawless. I last saw him here in Normandy, where his mother

    Read more
  • May Stevens in her studio, New York, 1974. Photo: Joyce Ravid. © The Estate of May Stevens.


    IN 1968, I moved to a loft in SoHo around the corner from where May Stevens and her husband, the Lithuanian-born painter Rudolf Baranik, lived with their dog, Sparta. We became friends and political allies. They were way ahead of me, having been deeply committed to the civil-rights movement and, later, active participants of the Angry Arts Week and cofounders of Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. Rudolf, a self-defined “socialist-formalist,” was the dedicated activist and strategist. May was involved but less active until the feminist art movement hit New York in 1970. Her

    Read more
  • May Stevens, A Life, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 78 × 120". From the series “Ordinary/Extraordinary,” 1976–84. © The Estate of May Stevens.


    I MET MAY STEVENS in the fall of 1983, when I enrolled in her survey class, Women in the Arts, at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I had made it through the tedium of the school’s conventionally designed foundation-year curriculum and into the second year of my degree program, when it was finally possible to take the many electives offered by the extraordinary instructors then teaching there. SVA was an early adopter of the adjunct-instructor model, meaning the school offered a representative sampling of the New York art world—for better and for worse. Painting was the dominant practice,

    Read more
  • Peter Wollen, August 1984.


    ON DECEMBER 17, 2019, Peter Wollen died from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, a slow, debilitating illness, a cruel death. He had been in a care home in England for fourteen years. Alzheimer’s denied Peter—and us—the life of his brilliant mind. Death may be a writer’s subject—the subject—but it is awful and very sad to write about a good friend’s. I know this will be inadequate to Peter.

    Peter thrived on ideas, adventures, and had many of both. He held strong views and was very knowledgeable. Peter wrote on film, art, politics, fashion, on culture generally. He wrote poems, curated art exhibitions,

    Read more
  • Jason Polan, New York, 2013. Photo: Lele Saveri.

    Jason Polan (1982–2020)

    IT WASN’T SO UNUSUAL to run into Jason Polan in New York, as he loved to wander the streets and was always out and about, looking for people and things to draw. And in the last few years, he lived down the street from me. “Hi, how you feeling?” he would ask. Still, it was always one of the happiest things that could happen. A minute with Jason could turn a low day into a good one—he made life felt lighter, brighter somehow.

    I don’t remember the first time we met, but it must have been at some book fair, or book release, definitely at some book-related thing. What I remember well was the first

    Read more