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Charles Harrison

Charles Harrison, Karlsruhe, Germany, March 2, 2008. Photo: ONUK.

CHARLES HARRISON may be the most important writer on modern art whom a good many readers of this magazine will never have encountered. As an accolade, that is indeed far too qualified: Harrison was one of a small handful of writers by whose standard the best art writing of our time will be judged. His death on August 6 at age sixty-seven, after a struggle with cancer, cut short a life of profound engagements with both art history and the contemporary practice of art.

The shape of his commitments and career diverged from the patterns of his few peers in ways that may account for the limited currency of his work in the normative channels of art-world discourse. To the end, his tendency was to go against the grain of what was expected. As a graduate student in London during the 1960s, he longed for a rigor in the explanation of art that was largely unavailable within the eclectic,

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