COLUMNS

  • The cover of Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s The Bunch's Power Pak Comics, 1979.

    Aline Kominsky-Crumb (1948–2022)

    I LOVED GETTING a FaceTime call from Aline, phone propped up so I could see her face and environs. Can you see my cozy bedspread? See my lamp? The wall color is nice! Cute, huh? In her home in the south of France she always seemed perfectly in tune with the colors and tones of the walls and furniture around her. 

    For such a quiet place, things in that remote village always felt like they were in motion. There were comings and goings, and Aline herself was a force of energy. At dinner she’d gesticulate and exclaim and oh it was fun. That vibrant, incredible energy. But when she was seated in public

    Read more
  • Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, March 1968.

    Billy Al Bengston (1934–2022)

    BILLY AL AND I MET in the early 1960s when he was racing motorcycles at Ascot Park in Gardena. I visited him at the hospital after he broke his back in one of those contests and it pretty much ended his racing career, but not his passion for motorcycling. He got me interested in the sport and we toured several times going from the northern border of Baja to the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas, a distance of some one thousand miles. We would travel only on dirt roads to avoid the dangers of paved highways. We would get lost or “diverted” from time to time, but always with hilarious circumstances.

    Read more
  • Peter Schjeldahl looking at Joan Mitchell’s Hemlock, 1956, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 2019. Photo: Jarrett Earnest.

    Peter Schjeldahl (1942–2022)

    ONE PROBLEM with seeing an exhibition with someone else is that rhythms of looking are so often at odds—either they move too slowly or not slow enough, or pay too much attention to stuff that you do not. Soon after we met in 2014, Peter Schjeldahl and I figured out that we were weirdly in-sync gallerygoers. Walking through a show together, we’d incessantly narrate bits of what we were seeing to each other, trying out descriptions and bits of language in the presence of the art itself—Peter scribbling on a checklist or small notepad like a proper reporter. These were my most vivid encounters with

    Read more
  • Bruno Latour, 2021. Photo: Antoine Doyen/Contour by Getty Images.

    Bruno Latour (1947–2022)

    MY LOVE OF BRUNO LATOUR was ignited by my reading of Reassembling the Social (2005).  I had worked my way through the usual roster of French theory; what a revelation to encounter a French thinker who made me laugh out loud, whose joviality, generosity, and curiosity about the world radiated from the page. The book billed itself, innocuously enough, as an “introduction to actor-network-theory,” but its challenge to the received ideas of academic thought—about society, agency, the relations between persons and things—was ruthless and devastating. Meanwhile, Latour’s eloquent descriptions of the

    Read more
  • Fulya Erdemci. Photo: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV).

    Fulya Erdemci (1962–2022)

    “WHAT IS RARE is almost not there,” writes the poet Ahmet Güntan, whom the late Fulya Erdemci often turned to for friendship and inspiration. Fulya was indeed a rare thing herself: a radical and tender vessel for art, poetry, politics, beauty, solidarity, and justice who could trace her legacy back to the budding contemporary art scene of Istanbul in the 1990s. She was a pillar in the infrastructures she built for progressive arts and civic politics in Turkey, and she enriched the art world and the world itself with her radiant vision of the future and her devotion to working toward that vision.

    Read more
  • Pharoah Sanders playing at Carnegie Hall in New York, 1972. Photo: K. Abe/Shinko Music/Getty Images.

    Pharoah Sanders (1940–2022)

    THE DAY AFTER what would have been John Coltrane’s ninety-sixth birthday, his most famous disciple left the planet. “Trane was the father,” saxophonist Albert Ayler famously remarked, “Pharoah was the son, and I am the Holy Ghost.” Pharoah Sanders, who was eighty-one, first came to prominence as an integral part of Coltrane’s mid-’60s turn to free jazz on recordings like Ascension and Meditations and in the performances of Coltrane’s final quintet. Like Ayler, his use of multiphonics and other extended techniques harked back to R&B “screamers” while simultaneously sounding as if they’d come from

    Read more
  • Claes Oldenburg, Giant Soft Fan, 1966–67, vinyl filled with foam rubber, wood, metal, and plastic tubing. Fan approximately 10' x 58 7/8“ x 61 7/8”, cord and plug 24' 3 1/4". Photo: RAFA RIVAS/AFP via Getty Images.

    Oldenburg was 38

    WHEN I WAS FOURTEEN, I saw a Claes Oldenburg sculpture. It was a big soft thing hanging from the ceiling. Its title was Giant Soft Fan, 1966–67. Clearly it held the image of a fan, but its identity was hallucinatory. Try to describe this strange and wonderful form over the telephone. Give a detailed description—it’s a big soft thing made of vinyl, wood, and foam—but if you refrain from using the word “fan,” the identity of the object will never be determined. The fact that it’s a fan is only apparent in the sculpture’s presence. Even as a fan this sculpture has a visual and physical quality that

    Read more
  • Claes Oldenburg, 1960's. Photo: Ken Heyman.

    Claes Oldenburg (1929–2022)

    TUESDAY AUGUST 23, 2022

    Woke up and ate a Ray Gun. Dreamt Coming to America was on my T-shirt, actually a wife-beater, people stopped to ask me why. I could stand in the middle of the street with this T-shirt, I say over and over again. Downtown a snow-covered pawn shop, curves and grooves in the artificial light beaming soft pillow icicles carved with a lasso. Landed at Dan’s to eat vegan meatballs with Sousee, Brod, and Nony. We all had more than some wine. Still hungry walking home stopped for French fries.

    Friday, August 26

    Rodin exhibition: dull premise, loved the drawings. Giant walking legs

    Read more
  • Issey Miyake, 1998. Photo: Denis Dailleux/Agence VU/Redux.

    Issey Miyake (1938–2022)

    THOUGH I DIDN’T CRY FOR BOWIE, I cried for Issey the way I cried for Leonard Cohen. My best friend wore Issey’s perfume, which bottled the sensation of water on skin. I have a few of his Pleats Please garments, harvested from eBay, and there is a thrifted, asymmetrical, gray ribbed heavy wool pullover sweater that I still regret giving away. It was from the early ’80s, like the raw silk, pleated madder-red smock I still treasure for its color and drape. His garments tend to stay with you. My ninety-six-year-old Parisian mother-in-law recalls an Issey jacket she bought decades ago. It was a green

    Read more
  • Tang Song in his studio, 2021. Photo: Min Cheng.

    Tang Song (1960–2022)

    MY FIRST GLIMPSE of Tang Song was through the windshield of a car. He was perched on a rooftop high above the bamboo-covered mountains as I drove up to his lair. With his newly-shaved brown head shining in the sun and his pointed ears cutting the sky behind him, he looked like Lucifer, the fallen angel, peering down over his subjects as they finished their long journey. First impressions go a long way and Tang’s. . .well, his keeps on going. The scene seemed straight out of a James Bond film: a secret, remote headquarters where a mad villain paced the rooftop conspiring to decimate the world.

    Read more
  • Sam Gilliam in his Washington, D.C., studio, 1980. Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images.

    Sam Gilliam (1933–2022)

    ALTHOUGH the more-than-a-half-century career of abstract painter Sam Gilliam was universally recognized and expansive in its reach, his studio and home were in Washington, D.C., which the art world was late to recognize as a place for innovative art and shape-shifting artists. Despite the history surrounding the genesis and development of the Washington Color School—chronicles that include such luminaries as critic Clement Greenberg and painters Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland—the reputation of the nation’s capital for nurturing leading-edge visual artists pales in comparison to cities like New

    Read more
  • An undated animation by Tom Moody.

    Tom Moody

    THERE WERE ONLY A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE who were in New York’s Net art scene of the early ’00s. It was a scene of square pegs, as everyone had come from different fields. There were dystopian cyberlibertarians, Lower East Side performance artists, West Coast cowboy hat–wearing BBS hippies, trad contemporary artists who decided to “drop out,” and, of course, Tom Moody. Tom—who looked like he stepped right out of a middle management I.M.B. office in 1976—was a polymath. Once on a studio visit to his tidy, sunny, and quite pleasant New Jersey flat in 2005, we discussed his prints, writing, music, art,

    Read more