Issue 3 UK £13 US $18 CAN $25
TERRA LUNA On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, art and the unknown Matthew Day Jackson in conversation with Don Eyles
PHOTO: EVAN SUNG
1 1 M A D I S O N AV E N U E , N E W YO R K , N Y 1 0 0 1 0
The Cover On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, artist Matthew Day Jackson and spaceprogram engineer Don Eyles talk about exploration, evolution and art. p. 34
Oral History A look back at a lost art space: The story of the experimental gallery 84 West Broadway, as told by its participants. Interviews and introduction by Randy Kennedy. p. 48
Profile Emerging filmmaker Garrett Bradley’s visceral vérité, now on view at the Whitney Biennial, by Morgan Jerkins. p. 60 Portfolio The Polish painter Jakub Julian Ziolkowski complicates the Chinese landscape. Essay by Zoë Lescaze. p. 68
Cabinet of Curiosities A foldout: Painter Anj Smith and Italian design atelier Fornasetti meld worlds, collaborating on the creation of a new trumeau. p. 82
The Keepers Our column about collecting as a mutant species of art-making. In this issue: Matthew Higgs in the record store, by Bob Nickas. p. 88 Portfolio On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, a journey back to Dessau and design pioneer Max Bill’s time as a student, in thrall to painting. p. 94
View A visit to Chillida Leku, sculptor Eduardo Chillida’s sculptural oasis in the Basque country, reopened to the public. A conversation with longtime studio assistant Fernando Mikelarena, by Catherine Serrano. p. 102
An Intimate Setting
Editor’s Note p. 10
Where contemporary style meets classic character.
Antiphony “Bugonia (Before a Life Ahead),” a new poem by Mike Lala in response to Pierre Huyghe. p. 18 Letters Arshile Gorky to his daughters, summer 1947. p. 12
Unknown Pleasures Alison Gingeras on Catholicism and visual catharsis. p. 20
Epitaph The unwavering crusade of Lyn Kienholz, sherpa of Los Angeles art, by Carol Kino. p. 28 Books New and upcoming publications that make us happy. p. 31 Recipe Martha Rosler, semiotician of the kitchen, prepares a “Patriotic Jell-O Salad.” p. 112 Five Cities Artists and friends on the places where they live and work. p. 114
Anxiety of Influence Ben Ratliff on bebop pianist Lennie Tristano and his pull on postwar American art. p. 14 Psychogeography A new column about place and history: In this issue, Bellevue Square and Rämistrasse 5, Zurich, an essay by Stefan Zweifel. p. 24
Non Finito Our farewell until next time: Danny Lyon’s view of the condemned home of the Park Place Group, from The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, published 50 years ago. p. 120
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Photo Mathias Zuppiger
Artwork Karin Schiesser
Editor in Chief Randy Kennedy Managing Editor Catherine Davis Editorial Coordinator Anna Shinbane Art Direction Common Name Production Christine Stricker Contributing Editors Andrea Schwan Michaela Unterdörfer Contributing Designer Anna M. Tzeng Hauser & Wirth, New York Editorial Offices: 548 West 22nd Street New York, NY 10011 Tel: +1 212-790-3900 Presidents Iwan and Manuela Wirth Partner and Vice President Marc Payot
MI KE L AL A
D O N E Y L ES
B EN R AT L IFF
Lala is a writer, poet and sound artist based in New York. He is the author of Exit Theater, which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2016, and the chapbooks In the Gun Cabinet and Twenty-Four Exits: A Closet Drama. His recent works include Infinite Odyssey, featured at Pioneer Works’ Contemporary Temporary: Sound Works and Music in Brooklyn in 2017, and the libretto for Oedipus in the District, presented at the Juilliard School and National Sawdust in 2018.
Eyles is a Boston-based writer, photographer, sculptor and former space-program software engineer whose work helped navigate the lunar module to the moon’s surface during the Apollo program. In 1971 Eyles earned NASA's Public Service Award for quick thinking to avert an aborted landing during the Apollo 14 mission. His book Sunburst and Luminary: an Apollo Memoir was published in 2018, and his floating sculpture PYR, launched in 2014, is currently on view in the Fort Point Channel in Boston. (Photo: Denise Bosco)
Ratliff is a New York-based writer and professor of cultural criticism at New York University. He was a music critic at The New York Times from 1996 to 2016. He is the author of four books: Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty; The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music; Coltrane: The Story of a Sound; and Jazz: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings. (Photo: Kate Fox Reynolds)
B O B NI CK A S
A L I S O N G IN G ER A S
CA R O L K IN O
The New York-based writer and curator has published four collections of his essays and interviews: Theft Is Vision, Live Free or Die, The Dept. of Corrections and Komplaint Dept. He is also the author of Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting and Catalog of the Exhibition. As a curatorial advisor at MoMA PS1, Nickas organized surveys of the work of Peter Hujar, Lee Lozano, Stephen Shore and Wolfgang Tillmans, among others. He was the founding editor of Index magazine. (Photo: Jason Metcalf)
Gingeras is a curator and writer based in New York and Warsaw. Her curatorial background includes work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, Palazzo Grassi and the downtown New York storefront space Oko. Her most recent exhibitions include the “Oscar Wilde Temple,” a public artwork by McDermott & McGough at Studio Voltaire in London, and “Sex Work: Feminist Art and Radical Politics” at Frieze in London. Her writing appears regularly in Artforum, Tate Etc., Spike and Mousse. (Photo: Dot Fitzpatrick)
Kino is a writer based in New York. She was the USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellow in 2007 and 2011. This fall, she will take on a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library to work on The FairHaired Girls: The Twin Photographers Who Helped Define the Fashion Magazines of 1940s New York, to be published by Scribner. Kino’s writing has appeared in WSJ, The New York Times and Art in America. She has been a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly, Art & Auction and Slate. (Photo: Lisa Blass)
Printed in Germany Offsetdruckerei Karl Grammlich Prepress Prints Professional, Berlin International Distribution pineapple-media.com Vol. 1, No. 3: Ursula (ISSN 2639-376X) is published quarterly, in spring, summer, fall and winter, for $60 a year in the U.S. by Hauser & Wirth, 548 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011. Subscriptions: Visit hauserwirth.com/ursula. Single copies may be purchased for $18. Postmaster: Send address changes to address above, care of Ursula Subscriptions. On the cover: Matthew Day Jackson, August 8, 1969, 2010–13; plastic, found wood, painted wood, scorched wood, stainless steel frame, 85 ½ × 66 ¼ × 5 ½". Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. On the back cover: Anj Smith, The Architecture: Secrets of Time and Space, detail of Fonasetti trumeau. Courtesy Fornasetti.
In 1969, the irreverent art collective Ant Farm created a time capsule for the Paris Biennale containing items to memorialize the Apollo 11 moon landing earlier that year, along with what they described as “cowboy drag” pieces, thrown in perhaps as ironic commentary on American swagger: a cowboy hat, a tape of the Steve Miller Band’s “Space Cowboy,” a Texas license plate, a Confederate flag and moon-landing souvenirs, along with plans for an electronic environment intended to simulate an LSD trip. But when the box was put on display in Paris, it was left uncovered and viewers immediately helped themselves to what was inside, picking it clean: the present, in essence, stealing the past from the future. (Warhol, who maintained regular time capsules of personal ephemera, encouraged the practice as a wonderfully amnesic way of structuring one’s life: “Drop everything in it, and at the end of the month lock it up. You should try to keep track of it, but if you can’t and you lose it, that’s fine.”) This issue of Ursula, our third, is full of time capsules that we encourage you to open and ransack at will—the moon landing itself being the most momentous for human consciousness and for the art world, which responded 50 years ago with a profusion of work articulating both hope (for technology’s potential) and fear (of its power). Don Eyles, the pioneering software engineer who wrote the code that put the lunar module safely on the powdery surface that July day, sits down with the artist Matthew Day Jackson, an old friend, to ponder the more transcendent aspects of an achievement the world has not duplicated since the Nixon administration (though a couple of billionaires are trying.). In this issue, we also mark the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, another revolution in thought and aesthetics, taking you back to Dessau, the school’s second and best-known home, to follow Swiss design pioneer Max Bill and his early days as an expressionist painter. We also plunge into the history of the all-but-forgotten experimental New York art space 84 West Broadway, whose brief run, which ended 40 years ago this year, involved insurgent artists like Daniel Buren, Louise Lawler, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner and Peter Nadin. And finally, on our parting page, we mark the 50th anniversary of the photographer Danny Lyon’s classic critique of New York’s equivocal relationship with its past, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, a chronicle of the leveling of great swaths of the island’s old neighborhoods to make way for the World Trade Center and other developments. Along the way, you’ll be guided by lots of theme music—the critic Ben Ratliff on the life of bebop pianist Lennie Tristano and his unlikely influence on the art world; the curator Matthew Higgs in conversation with Bob Nickas about record collecting and the Manchester music scene of Higgs’ youth; the avant-garde guitarist Rhys Chatham on his high-decibel participation in the 84 West Broadway scene; the iconoclastic Polish painter Jakub Julian Ziolkowski on shaman’s drums and productive studio music (Canadian hardcore). For as long as magazines have existed, anniversaries have functioned as the editorial equivalent of a conjuring trick, a perpetual appointment generator with the past. But at a time of enormous political and existential uncertainty, I like to think of revisiting the right ones as curative, in the spirit of the late, great British theorist and music writer Mark Fisher: “When the present has given up on the future, we must listen for the relics of the future in the unactivated potentials of the past.” —Randy Kennedy
Urban Art Experience
Discover the city’s most extensive open-air museum during your stay here. Acquaint yourself with the urban façade paintings and interventions, which reveal graffiti and street art influences of regional and international artists. Art in public spaces is always changing and constantly has some new revelation to be discovered. Our unique “young at heart graffiti” Bentley will drive you to the Artstübli gallery where you can enjoy a brief guided tour, before setting off with your guide to discover the street art of the city of Basel.
Album cover of Moondog’s Moondog, 1956 (Esquire).
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1 overnight stay including a sumptuous breakfast buffet Private urban art tour through Basel A ride in the “young at heart graffiti” Bentley BaselCard (free use of public transport in Basel, 50% discount on cultural and leisure activities)
Double Room from CHF 456 per person Junior Suite with Rhine river view from CHF 641 per person Suite with Rhine river view from CHF 966 per person
Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS Blumenrain 8 CH-4001 Basel Switzerland T +41 61 260 50 50 F +41 61 260 50 60 firstname.lastname@example.org www.lestroisrois.com
This page: Arshile Gorky, Untitled (study for Agony), 1946, pencil and crayon on paper, 14 ¾ × 9 ½". Opposite, from top: Arshile Gorky, postcard to MaroGorky, summer 1947. Arshile Gorky, postcard to Natasha Gorky, summer 1947. All artworks: Private collection, courtesy Arshile Gorky Foundation.
Late spring, 1947: Agnes “Mougouch” Gorky takes her children, Maro, four years old, and Natasha, not yet two, to Maine, where they remain for the summer in the seaside town of Castine. Arshile Gorky stays in New York at his studio, at 36 Union Square, to paint. Before leaving, Mougouch gives her husband a pile of stamped postcards helpfully addressed to “Mrs. Gorky” in Maine. During this solitary summer in New York, Gorky sends the cards to his family and works intensely, creating a number of significant works—many of which are now considered masterpieces, among them The Betrothal (Yale University Art Gallery) and Agony and Summation (both in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art). Despite his personal artistic flourishing, Gorky becomes increasingly lonely and anxious as the months go by. The art dealer Julien Levy, who met Gorky in 1932 and represented him from 1944–48, recalled Gorky’s words to him that summer: “I tell stories to myself, often, while I paint, often nothing to do with the painting. Have you ever listened to a child telling that ‘This is a house,’ and ‘This is
a man,’ and ‘This is a cow in the sunlight’…while his crayon wanders in an apparently meaningless scrawl all over the paper?” Struggling to communicate with words, Gorky turns to imagery in the postcards he sends that summer—especially in the two reproduced on this page, written to his young daughters, which reveal his figurative, decorative line. The postcards are at the same time artworks and archival documents. At the center of the one to Natasha he has included a reference to her beloved baby doll, and the motif on the left of the card to Maro—perhaps a dog—is found and reworked in numerous drawings and paintings related to the Agony and Pastoral series. Untitled (study for Agony), completed the previous year, included the same figure (lower center). The study is currently on view, alongside the major milestones of Gorky’s work, in “Arshile Gorky: 1904–48” at Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice, through September 22, 2019 in conjunction with the Venice Biennale. —Parker Field
Never See It Coming
anxiety of influence
In 1988, Bruce Nauman was asked by Joan Simon, for an Art in America interview, what he thought about when he made an artwork. His answer is worth quoting in full. I think about Lennie Tristano a lot. Do you know who he was? Lennie Tristano was a blind pianist, one of the original— or maybe second generation—bebop guys. He’s on a lot of the best early bebop records. When Lennie played well, he hit you hard and he kept going until he finished. Then he just quit. You didn’t get any introduction, you didn’t get any tail—you just got full intensity for two minutes or 20 minutes or whatever. It would be like taking the middle out of Coltrane—just the hardest, toughest part of it. That was all you got. From the beginning, I was trying to see if I could make art that did that. Art that was just there all at once. Like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the neck. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down. I like that idea very much: the kind of intensity that doesn’t give you any trace of whether you’re going to like it or not.
Lennie Tristano and American art 14
Album cover of Lennie Tristano's Atlantic 1224, 1960 (Atlantic Records).
by Ben Ratliff
Tristano, the jazz pianist and teacher, would have turned 100 last March. Nauman’s hesitation about calling him “original” and offering up “second generation” is on the money: Tristano developed his dialect within bebop a few years after Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie established the language, and his music was never taken up as centrally as theirs; his somewhat rigid sound and attitudes lodged him in jazz history, right or wrong, as a curiosity or a crank. And so it is significant that at least three prominent visual artists born after 1930—Nauman, Robert Ryman and Frank Stella—have mentioned him as a kind of influence. May I ask a crazy question? What exactly gave rise to the common notion that mid-century American jazz and visual art were deeply linked—that all those artists were fully paid-up jazz aficionados? After all, in bebop there was a lot of humor, winking, joy. In abstract expressionism, particularly from its white and/or male artists, far less. One answer might be the appeal of intellectually synesthetic arguments, like the ones in Wassily Kandinsky’s 1910
Bruce Nauman, Beating With a Baseball Bat, 1986. © 2019 Bruce Nauman. Courtesy the artist and Artist’s Rights Society, New York.
essay “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” which speaks of “melodic” and “symphonic” attributes in painting. Then, for sure, there’s an analogous rebellion or subversion between the two disciplines. The full plunge into gestural art and the sinking of figure into ground might correspond with what happened to recognizable melody in jazz by the late ’40s: melody was often disguised, or it bobbed and weaved against rhythm sections. “Everybody followed the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie,” wrote Jed Perl in New Art City, referring to New York artists in the early ’50s. But who’s everybody? And what does “followed” really mean? What if the links between jazz and the visual arts, such as they are, were basically social, a story of intersecting or parallel drinking scenes? Isn’t that important too? Is that a less interesting story? In the late 1950s Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning,
Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Jack Tworkov, David Smith, Larry Rivers, Clement Greenberg and Herman Cherry, among other painters and sculptors and critics, are said to have hung out at the Five Spot, the jazz club on Cooper Square. (Cherry may have been the instigator; the bar was across the street from his studio.) If many of them saw Thelonious Monk’s quartet with John Coltrane, which played six nights a week for six months in the second half of 1957, then we should know something about Monk and Coltrane’s influence on American painting. But do we? Likewise, Ornette Coleman settled in at the same place for three months at the end of 1959. What was Coleman’s influence on American painting? The great painter Bob Thompson knew Coleman; he made a painting in 1961 called Ornette. Even so, it could be argued that Thompson owed far more to the painters in his circle, fellow
thought about Lennie Tristano—it’s interesting to see a jazz musician prized for, in a sense, pushing you out, or blindsiding you. * * *
Charlie Parker & the Metronome All Stars, New York,1949 (clockwise from left: Billy Bauer, Eddie Safranski, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano). Photo: © Herman Leonard Photography LLC.
figurative expressionists like Jan Müller and Emilio Cruz, than he did to Coleman. To what extent—beyond titles—could the painters use the music in their own work? Might it have been just as important that they simply liked to be together in spaces also occupied by jazz musicians? What about Jackson Pollock? The scholar Helen Harrison went through his record collection: Pollock, it seems, was mostly into ’30s and ’40s swing. Artie Shaw was about as modern as it got. No problem with that, but let’s call it what it is. Pollock’s friend B.H. Friedman, Harrison wrote, “tried in vain to interest Pollock in bebop.” So did Pollock’s bop-savvy girlfriend, Ruth Kligman. “I thought he was a real square,” she told Harrison. (I don’t know about the record collections of the other painters who hung at the Five Spot. The painter Norman Lewis was no square when it came to jazz, but until recently, his role in the Ab Ex revolution has been sorely neglected, in part because he was among its few black members.) If you believe that all Ab Ex painters were committed to bebop, then it may be natural to believe that all artists born after 1930 were committed to what followed. Ryman, Larry Rivers and Jack Whitten
were saxophonists; but isn’t it better to consider the question case by case? My father, Marcus Ratliff, is an American painter from the generation born after 1930. He hung out with Jim Dine and Tom Wesselmann and Claes Oldenburg and Red Grooms and studied at Cooper Union in the late ’50s. He had no idea who was playing at the Five Spot, across the street from his classrooms. He never went. As he tells it, he and his friends were so into their own work they didn’t have time to notice. Motion is the primary property of all music; no motion, no music. Painting often imitates motion. The more motion in music, the more there is to imitate. Improvisation exists outside of music and, of course, existed before jazz. (Kandinsky’s increasingly abstract Improvisation painting series, begun in 1909, owes, presumably, nothing to jazz.) But the improvisational aesthetic and dance rhythms in jazz caught on early with painters. Earl Hines inspired Stuart Davis and Romare Bearden; Albert Murray, Robert O’Meally and others have emphasized the importance of rhythmic breaks and “disjunctures” in Bearden’s painted images—places of play and surprise, places where the music pulls you in. And so—to return to Bruce Nauman’s
I can’t quite pick up a direct, material correlative between Nauman’s phantasmagoric conceptual art and Tristano’s jazz, but there needn’t be one. Nauman, who may have been introduced to Tristano’s work by his friend Robert Ryman, is talking about something underneath the music—a purity of intent, basically, within a specific way Tristano sometimes played. (Nauman seems to be interested in the subconscious; he may know that Tristano was fascinated by Freud and Wilhelm Reich.) The bit about Tristano leaving out the “introduction” and the “tail” seems to describe a jazz musician withholding a story. Opposition to “story,” or narrative logic, entered the rhetoric of mid-century artists and writers outside of jazz, including Francis Bacon, Samuel Beckett, Merce Cunningham and William Burroughs. That opposition seems predicated on the anxiety that narrative conventions lead toward untruths and cliché. But jazz, even Tristano’s jazz, has never particularly had the anti-story anxiety, probably because African-American culture has for so long depended on storytelling for survival. Nauman’s way of relating to Tristano may, in fact, be misplaced, or primarily a reflection of his own desire. Still, it’s interesting that he related to Tristano at all. Tristano and his group did record the first examples of free collective improvisation, in 1949—in other words, jazz with no preset chordal sequence. These sound a bit like laboratory experiments. He did much better work wildfiring over the harmonic movement of standards like “Out of Nowhere” and “All the Things You Are,” and exploring his own original melodies based on those chord changes. That was the bebop way, and if Tristano felt a loyalty to any style of jazz, it was bebop. But he was pedantic, a bit imperious, and the logistics of his blindness seemed to have ruled out the hectic work habits of friends like Charlie Parker. Tristano generally disdained nightclub life, making most of his living from 20-minute lessons he gave to private students in his studio on East 32nd Street. Often he would encourage his students to separate their hands; he’d have them spend months at a time playing melodies with the left hand alone, then the right hand alone. Sometimes Tristano would improvise over up-tempo 4/4 swing with his right hand alone, in super- extended lines of single notes. Eighth notes were his basic stock, but he switched up into tumbling waves of sixteenths and slipped
into three-beat feel; he’d push on and on past the expected stopping places, and you could hear every note articulated, nailed down with force. (Meanwhile, his bassist and drummer would keep the steadiest possible pulse, often more metronomic than the general high standard of jazz rhythm sections in those days.) A good film exists online of Tristano’s quintet, with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, playing at the Half Note, on Hudson Street, in 1964. There, in versions of Konitz’s “SubconsciousLee” and Marsh’s “Background Music,” you can hear it and see it—Tristano on the stage just above the bar, keeping his upper body straight and still, his mouth working fast as if he were singing the rhythms of his line. This is both the “hardest, toughest” sound that Nauman meant, and also the most shareable part of Tristano’s genius. In his observations, Nauman could be describing one particular recording: “Line Up,” the first track from the album Tristano, released in 1956. As it is generally understood, Tristano recorded his bassist and drummer playing the changes of “All of Me,” then later recorded himself soloing over a slowed-down version of that recording, and finally released a version of that recording, sped up to normal speed. It sounds preternatural and a little rabbity, and it amps up the latent aggression in his playing a bit. Tristano comes in after four bars, concocts longer and longer strings of improvised single-notes, and continues for three and a half minutes. (Not 20, as Nauman suggested—three and a half is enough for him to make his case.) Frank Stella moved to New York in the summer of 1958. He went to hear Tristano in August, at the beginning of the pianist’s
13-week residency at the Half Note. Tristano hadn’t performed in public in four years. He had made the club owners buy a new piano, a Bechstein, before he agreed to play there, and picked it out himself. “I was just bowled over, as they say,” Stella said many years later, to the radio interviewer Sara Fishko. “I can still see him above the bar with his moccasins and white athletic socks, pushing on the pedals and playing away.” That fall, Stella made a black painting named Turkish Mambo, named after a Tristano recording made by multitracking solo piano lines in different time signatures. Stella e-mailed me recently to say that he left the painting in a garbage can on the corner of Canal and West Broadway that September. (But he reused the title many years later for a black-and-white lithograph.) In 1962, he made a painting called Line Up: concentric squares in shades of black, white and gray, a maze coiling toward the center. Stella was after the lean, the flat, the efficient. “Through the use of a kind of flat, regulated pattern,” he said in the ’70s, “I could make a painting situation that read, or seemed, flatter. I felt that flatness was a kind of an absolute necessity for modernist painting at the time. I felt that black paintings were really right.” This kind of commentary, about formal necessities for a certain art at a certain time, sounds a bit like Clement Greenberg. But it also sounds like Tristano, who also spoke in manifestos and liked to talk about requirements and necessities for linear progress in jazz. In his lessons, and in a few dogmatic essays he wrote for Metronome magazine in the late ’40s, he prized the importance of the “line” in
Frank Stella, Turkish Mambo from Black Series II, 1967. © 2019 Frank Stella. Courtesy the artist and Artist’s Rights Society, New York.
jazz, meaning the single-note melodic line; he prized the melodic, or “horizontal” imagination in improvising, and he felt that this was the great promise of bebop. (He also felt that bebop was “cool, light and soft,” and therefore a place for true intellectual advancement, none of which implies the baseball bat.) “It’s the quickness and sureness that pulled me to Lennie,” Stella remembers now. It makes a kind of sense that he thought of Tristano during his minimalist black-painting period: Tristano was, as much as exists in jazz, a purist—at least in the sense that he wanted purity of gesture, execution, intent and, to some degree, form. He was interested in responsible modernism through form. He was also interested in feeling—but as a disciplined requirement, as if it were an aspect of form. He distinguished feeling from “emotion” and used the idea of “emotion” as a cudgel against music he didn’t like much, including what came before him (swing) and what would soon render him old-fashioned (John Coltrane). What about Robert Ryman, who had the strongest link to Tristano of all three? Ryman, who died last February, took saxophone lessons with Tristano from 1952 to 1954. His relationship to Tristano and jazz has been seriously explored: John F. Szwed wrote an essay about it for a book about Ryman’s work published by the Dia Art Foundation in 2017, and Vittorio Colaizzi explored it in depth for a chapter of his Ryman monograph, published the same year by Phaidon. The results are muted. The relationship is indirect. Ryman, like Nauman, wasn’t into narrative. He was into the purity and truth of the first take—the “one-time thing,” or the “direct feeling,” as he put it. That definitely has something to do with jazz, if not Tristano per se. Ryman named one of his paintings from 1962 Love Lines, after a track on Tristano’s album The New Tristano; he named another Untitled (Background Music), possibly referring to Marsh’s tune. But do Ryman’s white paintings evoke Tristano’s music? They’re not exactly about the line, or about shapes at all; they’re sometimes about wriggling layers of heavy paint strokes. They’re focused but not portentous. They represent a much softer blow to the head: maybe a swimming-pool noodle, maybe a bolster pillow. You can be influenced by what you want to see or hear; you can also be influenced by a dead end. After ending his lessons with Tristano, Ryman gave up the tenor saxophone in 1954, and did so pretty completely. The scholar Lucy R. Lippard, his wife during the 1960s, has written that she never saw him pick up the horn. That, in its own way, is as deep a sign of Tristano’s influence as any.
Bugonia (Before a Life Ahead)
by Mike Lala
You look from the screen to the frame of the monitor, thin band of plastic reflecting a soft curve of lighting, back to the text on the screen.
The I in Intervention inverts into an I. Virgil writes first you must pick out a narrow place,
The text is not smooth. You think of the lilting, your head and neck moving, eyes just-so out of sync; you think of the ways in which your experience sidles the gaps.
I looks at the page from the space above the page find a young bull, lead him in, tie him up.
You look at the plastic embossed for the blind.
looks down for an entrance and marks up the world, and watching Cover his body with blows
You press the key downward to enter a hole carved in plastic
her handwriting sink through a stage (his bones must collapse)
to trigger a signal to trigger a sign
she types up each draft till his organs and marrow are fluid.
which appears on the screen before which you type.
leaving her imprint erased
Cover his body with branches of marjoram, thyme as the winds caress, fields start their bloom. Your head is lilting; an idea forces itself to the margins
except for an I.
All while the swallow cries Hi in the rafters above is batted away. where he lies. The hole of the screen enters you into a surface of light.
I step through the poem as if through a field. Footless they start, but then growing wings, and first flutter forward, take flight
The surface of light is no less made than the surface of plastic or that of cut glass.
I and the field are no less real than a field of bluestems
like a short spurt of rain on a sunny day, black screen of arrows from Parthian bows as they block out the light. The engineers model the surface of light for a lifespan of X.
waving goodbye and waving goodbye, as A. Paty writes I ask you, Muses, who thought up this art? Whose Then it is not.
though it is gone. knowledge—
The surface is refuse. The surface in afteruse home less to light than to water, small creatures, hydrated ion III oxides, microbiota, decay.
The field of bluestems desertifies, absent the bison, as I continue, alive.
where from, what mind and place? What god told us If all of a sudden, your hives shrivel up, and your future depends on knowing this craft, The screen will outlast you, your children, their children. The screen may outlast what you know to be human.
I (Intervention) lie down, and my serifs elongate in layers: a sans-serif H. it’s no use to cry at your fate by the river. Find your bull. Make his bed. Lead him in. Stop his breath. A life that comes after may use it to live.
Pierre Huyghe, After ALife Ahead, 2017; ice rink concrete floor, sand, clay, phreatic water, bacteria, algae, bee colonies, chimera peacock, aquarium, black switchable glass, Conus textile, incubator, human cancer cells, genetic algorithm, augmented reality, automated ceiling structure, rain, ammoniac, logic game. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ola Rindal.
H reproduces, its child an i. Together they greet us. nvasion, sings i. Out comes a song—this one’s for you.
The Period Eye A passion play by Alison Gingerias A BRO N X TALE My visual education began in the modest interior of a house with a brown sandpaper facade nestled at the end of the 6 train, in a neighborhood called Pelham Bay, neatly hemmed in by the Throgs Neck Bridge and City Island in the northeast corner of the Bronx. For decades, beginning in the mid-19th century, the neighborhood was a bastion of the Irish and Italian working class. Many residents had been American for several generations, yet with a constant influx of fresh immigration, the community fermented with ferocious ties to the Old World. Blindingly white, dominantly Catholic, zealously conservative, this corner of New York was, and maybe still is, a time warp. No need to watch All in the Family— Archie Bunker was our neighbor. The social and political revolutions that roiled the rest of the city in the late 1960s and early ’70s barely reached our shores, where Irish cops and small-time Italian mobsters lived side by side in “mother-daughter” houses. My great-grandparents and grandparents had lived in a house in the middle of Zulette Avenue since the house was erected at the turn of the last century. By the time I was born, we were four generations shoehorned into a block dominated by the dreadful geometry of cheap aluminum siding—unconsciously I had drunk in Dan Graham’s Homes for America along with my baby formula. Inside the house, the principle motifs fell into one of three categories: Irish, Catholic, or tchotchke; the most treasured objects embodied all three. A ceramic holy water dish sat at the bottom of the stairs, perpetually filed with the sacramental waters that my grandparents dutifully schlepped back from their yearly pilgrimage to Our Lady of Knock shrine in Ireland. The maternal gaze of the Virgin, in either lithographic or sculptural incarnation, peered from every corner. Naturally, an effigy of Saint Patrick had pride of place in the sitting room, and a humble cross of Saint Brigid hung nearby. Another cherished relic of the Old Sod, this cross was among my
favorite things in the house. Fashioned from woven rushes with a distinctly Gaelic geometry, it was, in fact, as I later learned in my rebellious teenage years, based on iconography pilfered from the pagan Celts, who had used it to celebrate the Imbolc festival at the start of spring. I locate my attraction to this object, retroactively, in the springtime of my own heathen leanings. After all, one of my earliest memories involves the blasphemous questions I whispered to my mother on the way home from kindergarten: How do we know Jesus was a real guy? Isn’t this all just some made-up story? The most enduring visual memories of my childhood are perhaps the religious figures depicted on the small prayer cards that my grandmother tucked into the front of her kitchen cabinets. As I sat eating at her Formica table, I would stare up at this laminated pantheon of saints, fascinated by these imposing figures populating an already overpopulated household. For me, these cards, handed out during the endless stream of wakes and funerals we attended (the mortality rate in our section of the Bronx must have been exceptionally high!), did more than memorialize departed relatives and friends; they marked the first steps down a long road of fascination with Catholic iconography and devotional art. I would later learn that the bland illustrations on these cards—renderings of the Holy Family, Mother Mary, Saint Christopher, Saint Francis, Jesus with his flaming heart, rendered in syrupy hues in a cheesy stock-image style—represented a centuries-long degradation from a complex visual symbolism developed in the earliest examples of woodblock prayer cards produced in 1400s in the Low Countries. As fascinated as I was by the narratives attached to these figures, I ultimately rejected the aesthetics of this canned Catholicism just as I rejected the repressive dogmas of the church itself. And yet barely a decade later, as a young art-history student, I found myself unconsciously gravitating back to this imagery. Like most coming-of-age stories, this one took the form of a kind of repetition compulsion that fueled a search for more meaningful versions of the religious images printed en masse by McNulty’s Funeral Parlor. In psychoanalysis, repetition compulsion is understood as an attempt to rewrite our histories through constant reprisal of past tropes or behaviors, in order to strip away the distressing content of the past. In my case, I wanted to liberate this beguiling iconography from both the shackles of religious meaning and the visual dross of working-class American Catholicism, to reinvent it with a fervently secular devotion to the intellectual and aesthetic
achievements within religious iconography. Anyone who’s stumbled across my Instagram account could be forgiven for wondering if I’m a Jesus freak. But my regular recourse to Catholic imagery has nothing to do with the eternal; its motivation is in the here and now—to find sophisticated, sometimes weird permutations of ancient visual narratives in order to restore a sense of wonder and delight to the picture book of my youth, as well as a search for an emotional experience that transcends the forced religious belief suffusing all those pictures, lining all those cabinets, back in that kitchen in the Bronx. IN B R U G E S The superstars of 15th century Flemish painting lived and worked in Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, Hans Memling and Gerald David. My juvenile obsession with Flemish painting led me to apply to study in Belgium, where, for the equivalent of 20 bucks, I was able to ride the rails on a student pass nearly every weekend for more than a year, seeking out the works of primitive painters, masterpieces and forgotten gems alike. I crisscrossed the country looking in churches, municipal museums, tiny villages and glamorous medieval cities like Bruges, Antwerp, Leuven and Ghent for religious pictures by the anonymous Master of the Legend of Saint Ursula, as well as works by Dieric Bouts and Rogier van der Weyden. On at least six separate occasions that year, I purposely traveled to see van Eyck’s The Madonna With Canon van der Paele, in Bruges’ storied Groeningemuseum. This extraordinary Marion painting from 1436 depicts the Virgin seated on a throne in a dark church interior, holding a classically ugly baby Jesus who in turn holds an exotic parrot. The resplendently beautiful, decidedly Nordic-looking Mary is flanked by Saint George and Saint Donatian. The painting’s commissioning patron, Joris van der Paele, a papal scribe who amassed considerable wealth, kneels in the right foreground. Mary’s downward gaze directs the viewer’s attention to van der Paele’s curious black glasses and the intricately rendered pages of his prayer book. Upon each viewing, my eye and brain worked in tandem computing the pictorial minutiae, deciphering the composition, drinking in the 500-year-old chromatic richness and trying to digest the symbolism of this immersive picture without the aid of a textbook. The patrician folds of the canon’s skin seemed to quiver with breath, and the play of glances of all the figures suggested the whole painting might be an allegory of opticality. Looking at it, I had my first taste of art-historic obsession. This was no cheesy prayer card.
room full of masterpieces. Bout’s image of maternal love riffs on an antique archetype of the affectionate Madonna that dates at least from the Byzantine tradition, but its punctum is the tender touch of the subject’s faces, the corners of their lips just touching. Mary’s eyelids are blissfully heavy while her son’s are focused upwards, locked on her gaze. Lifting my son up to have a look through the Plexiglas, I asked him what he thought about this special image. I assumed that Bout’s tiny picture would be, to a boy raised without religion, just another dusty old portrait, but it wasn’t. “That’s a picture of you and me, Mommy,” he said. “It’s us, just back in time.” The shortest verse in the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” Needless to say, I did, too.
JES U S ’ J U NK
“She’s looking at Jesus’ junk!” This was the painter Walter Robinson’s exclamation on my Instagram in response to a posting of a particularly lusty crucifixion study by Delacroix. Rendered in brushy strokes, the piece shows a bare-breasted Mary Magdalene languishing below a freshly executed Christ, her eyes laser focused on the Savior’s loins. Leave it to an artist to understand immediately what motivated me to post the image. For years, I’ve carried
around Leo Steinberg’s book The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion (1983) as my extracurricular reading—dipping in and out of Steinberg’s great erudition with great relish. My husband gave me the book after a decade of partaking in my religious painting obsessions, indulging in detours to obscure chapels and museums in Sicilian villages and across the Polish hinterlands. Premised on Catholic theology’s insistence on Christ’s flesh-andblood carnality, Steinberg’s book argued that Renaissance artists lavished particular attention on the depiction of Jesus’ genitals in order to prove his dual status as both Man and God. Steinberg explains that “for a Western artist nurtured in Catholic orthodoxy…the objective was not so much to proclaim the divinity of the babe as to declare the humanation of God.” Bolstered by a close reading of Saint Augustine, as well as by the work of a contemporary Jesuit theologian, Steinberg goes on to claim: “If the godhead incarnates itself to suffer a human fate, it takes on the condition of being both death-bound and sexed.…Thus understood, the evidence of Christ’s sexual member serves as the pledge of God’s humanation.” Presenting evidence in the form of hundreds of Renaissance depictions of Jesus’ sex as a
Dieric Bouts, Virgin and Child, c. 1455-60. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Theodore M. Davis Collection, bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915.
As a young initiate, the discipline of art history became the perfect secular cover for my compulsions and for my intellectual devotion to studying the permutations of ancient narrative convention—the Annunciation, the Passion, the Lamentation, the Assumption of the Virgin, all those gruesomely martyred saints and surreal baby Jesus homunculi. I could divorce these scenes from the spiritual. Even if I knew the chapter and verse of each biblical character’s theological significance, I could start to remove the dogmatic use-value of the paintings and weigh them simply as images of humanity. I could “read” them as formal and symbological puzzles, or as vehicles for these painters’ ingenious compositional inventions and unmatched technical skills. On my Flemish pilgrimages, I learned how to look. And how to think about art for myself. Devotion became the product of movement, not faith. I had to get myself to these paintings, across many kilometers and train lines. The pleasure of looking and understanding was conflated with all the observations and chance encounters along the way. The downtime between each pilgrimage forced me to think about what I was going to see, to digest what I had just seen. Pilgrimage is about leaving the comfort of your home as much as it is about paying homage or witnessing a given thing. Art owes us a feeling, and those pilgrimages enabled me to feel. Feeling—or at least the astonishing depiction of feeling—is, in fact, what got me hooked on art. Andachtsbild is the art-historical term for the genre of Northern European painting whose specific function was to elicit an intense emotional experience. Prevalent in the 14th and 15th centuries, these smallscale devotional images of a bleeding Christ or mournful Mary were designed literally to make us cry. It is not just the verisimilitude of Memling’s tearful The Man of Sorrows in the Arms of the Virgin; it is also the artist’s ability to capture the devastating substance of human loss—emotion captured and fixed into two dimensions with mere oil paint—that remains so viscerally moving. This palatable mournfulness endured for more than five centuries. The potency of such Mater Dolorosa paintings emanates from their absolute humanity not from their subject’s divine backstory. Decades after my first encounters with the Andachtsbilder genre, I tested the power of these paintings on my seven-year-old at the Met. Gallery 641, in the Department of European Paintings, is an obligatory stop every time I set foot in the museum. Dieric Bouts’s diminutive oil-on-wood painting Virgin and Child (circa 1455–60) sits behind thick glass on a pedestal of the center of a
baby and as an adult redeemer, Steinberg hastens us to do no less than contemplate Christ’s cock. Whether in the deliberate exposure of the swaddled Christ child’s groin in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Adoration of the Magi (1487) or in the sensuously rendered, starkly naked body of Michelangelo’s Risen Christ (1514–20), this art history of the holy penis was, at least to me, pure heaven. Beyond the transgressive jubilation that came with each reading of this audacious interpretation—nothing could have been further from the sexual repression of my upbringing—Steinberg offered a way to liberate Catholic art from its ghetto of denial. I wanted to see each Jesus and every Mary not as empty archetypes but as individual subjects at a given historical moment. And Steinberg gave me the permission to probe that underlying humanity within a deeply coded subject matter. Reading him emboldened my profane preoccupation with Christian iconography. He uncovered what the censors zealously sought to obfuscate and trained my gaze to contemplate Christological manhood—revealing not only the suppressed taboo but more importantly insisting upon the inherent eroticism of all humans. “Jesus and his 12 Boyfriends” is only one bridge farther than Steinberg’s The Sexuality of Christ. If we accept Steinberg’s premise that to be human is to be sexual, why would it be implausible that Jesus was gay? Since the early 1980s, the artist duo McDermott & McGough have “preached” their own revisionist version of Catholicism—creating works that make explicit the homoeroticism inherent in centuries’ worth of images of Christ. Without reading Steinberg, they too picked up on all the phallic contemplation. It was, in part, their daring conjecture that enticed me to work with them over the past three years as the curator for an ambitious gesamtkunstwerk: a Temple to Oscar Wilde, which they have so far staged twice, in New York and London. The catalyst for the project, as well as its visual tropes, was the idea of Oscar the Savior—the beleaguered and beset cultural prophet, patron saint of pariahs—replacing Christ in queered versions of stations of the cross, devotional wooden sculpture and a triptych over the “altar,” along with devotional images of other martyrs, such as Harvey Milk, Brandon Teena and Sakia Gunn. This temple emerged, at least in part, from of our shared repetition compulsions as Irish Catholics—our quest to reclaim the iconography and ideologies that so deeply
impacted our psyches. It is only in writing this larger reflection on my visual education, in fact, that I begin to see my relationship to art history as one big Catholic palimpsest. O FF TH E CR O SS Once I got really high with the art historian and curator John Richardson after one of the legendary dinner parties he held at his loft on lower Fifth Avenue. It is hard to fathom now how I found my then-twentysomething-self smoking such a huge joint in the wee hours with such an icon. Known foremost for his epic multivolume biography A Life of Picasso, Richardson (who died in March, at the age of 95) was an irreverent fixture of 20th century’s artistic and literary life in New York and Europe. In addition to his legendary friendship with Picasso, he spent his postwar life amid an illustrious pantheon of mostly queer artists and writers: Cecile Beaton, Jean Cocteau, W.H. Auden, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Francis Bacon. My entrée to his soirées, indirectly, was Bacon. I met Richardson at an art opening, and we got along like a house on fire after realizing that we shared a particularly naughty mutual friend in Paris named Marcel, who, back in the ’50s, had kept company with both Richardson and Bacon while cruising the backstreets around the Bastille looking for sex. Almost verbatim, Richardson repeated an anecdote I’d heard Marcel tell many times— about the night when Bacon leaped from their moving car at Place de la République onto the back of a Vespa driven by a handsome young Moroccan man who had winked at him and with whom he disappeared into the night. But it was hearing about Richardson’s close friendship with Warhol that most piqued my curiosity. The pair met when Richardson moved to New York in the 1960s. A decade later, Warhol captured Richardson’s kinky side in an infamous portrait of the aristocratic, erudite scholar in leather fetish gear. Richardson’s eulogy for Warhol in 1987 revealed an even deeper testament to their closeness. Warhol had shared his closeted Catholicism with very few friends, undoubtedly because he knew that awareness of his religious devotion would undermine his carefully crafted persona. At the funeral in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Richardson told the mourners that he believed many of Warhol’s central motifs were rooted in this secret piety. For example, he ascribed the seriality of his Pop motifs (a hundred Coke bottles, twenty Jackies, eight Elvises) to the repetition
of prayers in the Rosary. Richardson also evoked Warhol’s Last Supper paintings, made right before the artist’s death. Could Warhol, too, have fantasized about Jesus’ polyamorous relationship with his apostles? Regardless, I could powerfully relate to the Warholian attitude toward religion. And I couldn’t get enough of Richardson’s yarns, which perfectly interwove the sacred with the irreverent. To call him a hero would be an understatement; for me, he was art history incarnate—the word made flesh. It is no surprise, then, that Richardson starred in one of my most psychoanalytically significant dreams to date. I had started psychoanalysis after the devastating loss of my grandparents, impelled by the desire to dig into layers of repressed family history. I loathed going to see Dr. R most Wednesdays, but with this dream, I knew I’d be bringing a pot of Freudian gold to the couch. The dream was set in a dark modernist house that seemed to be constructed out of poured concrete with heavy velvet drapery blocking the windows; the Brutalist architecture was labyrinthine. I was frantically running between different spaces of the house, preparing for something unknown, the overall mood fraught with anxiety. My panic worsened when suddenly I saw dozens of kitsch knickknacks scattered about the furniture, sitting on top of lace doilies—Oh the shame! The aesthetic abjection! As I rushed through the house, I stumbled upon my Grandma Dot leading John Richardson through the rooms, showing off her finery. I was mortified. How could my separate worlds collide like this? Repressing shock and dismay, I joined in the house tour. John pointed to an oil painting with a crucifixion scene—it was definitely an Old Master, with heavy gold leaf in the background, though I was unable to remember who had made it. We happened upon another religious painting when John exclaimed in his authoritative, posh voice: “But of course! These are all yours…” My embarrassment mounted to a fever pitch. The dream ended when a slow-motion tsunami howled out of nowhere into the backyard and I woke up, heart racing. Dr. R was well aware of my background. Catholic themes were a regular part of our sessions. I looked to him to help me unravel the meaning of this strange art-religious reverie. “Perhaps,” he said thoughtfully, “the time has come for you to come off the cross.”
Previous spread, from top row, from left: 1. Photo: Alessandro Vasari. 2. Courtesy Ufizi Gallery and Giovanni Tornabuoni. 3. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and gift of G. J. Demotte, 1920. 4. Courtesy Groeninge Museum Bruges. 5. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. 6. Courtesy Efrem Kurtz and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 7. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Fletcher Fund, 1933. 8. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Friedsam Collection, bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931. 9. Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and D.G. van Beuningen, 1958. 10. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913. 11. Courtesy Pinacoteca Brera. 12. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941. 13. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art and bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913.
The Poetry of Night Buses
On the occasion of the relocation of Hauser & Wirth Publishers to—and the opening of its new bookstore in—the historic Zurich building at Rämistrasse 5, former home of the venerated Oprecht & Helbling bookshop and the publisher Europa Verlag, Swiss essayist Stefan Zweifel offers a tribute to a neighborhood, in the spirit of its insurgents.
Under the influence of wine and mescal, the Situationists once explored Paris in order to identify “psychogeographic hubs,” those places where, according to founding member Guy Debord, the ego plunges into new situations and reinvents both itself and the city. Zurich’s Bellevue Square is one of these liminal hubs, a place where the present is lapped continually by the waters of the past. At Rämistrasse 5, the square is presided over by an enlightening spirit, the building that once housed the Oprecht & Helbling bookstore, founded in 1925 by Emil Oprecht, and the renowned publishing house, Europa Verlag, that grew from it— one of the most important havens for exiled intellectuals during World War II. (“Every opponent of Hitler that landed in Zurich sooner or later ended up at Oprecht’s door,” wrote an essayist about the house, in 1963.)
Bellevue is, and has been, a topography of order and rebellion. In 1917, the Dadaists Tristan Tzara and Walter Serner stood contemplating aesthetic revolution in the middle of Rämistrasse, the same spot where, decades later, during the summer of 1980, a new generation of bohemians gathered to demand a stake in their city’s culture, protesting a lack of public funding for arts spaces; the young people trying to outrun the clouds of tear gas escaped, as many escapees had before, into the Oprecht bookstore. Now, in lieu of demonstrations, obliviously well-heeled crowds flood the square in spring to banish the winter by burning a snowman called the “Böögg,” culminating the Sechseläuten celebration, whose roots stretch back to the city’s medieval guilds. Bellevue is also a field of unfettered potential, crisscrossed by the poetry of night buses and 11th-hour despair. Always in the background is the sight of the lake, stirring longing for the expanses of the distant Alps. Artist Martin Disler, in the catalogue for Bice Curiger’s 1980 exhibition “Saus und Braus” (“Good and Bad”) described this sense of longing: We will guzzle you up from Bellevue Spit you out bit by bit over the buildings wolf down all your 5 million ships leave our piss, while swimming, on top of you you’re the biggest square in town blue superb cool perfect for nocturnal drowning “Saus und Braus” is the exhibition, it should be noted, where Swiss duo Fischli/ Weiss first showed their work. In a photo from around that time, taken at a party at the storied Kronenhalle restaurant, David Weiss and Peter Fischli can be seen seated right behind the designers Max Bill (stringent Zurich constructivist) and Hans Erni (utopian Marxist), who seem to have drifted in from another era—an image of the meeting and overlapping of layers of the city’s history, which snake through it like its tram tracks. * * *
A disquisition on place: Bellevue Square, Zurich 24
by Stefan Zweifel
This page: Emil Oprecht, circa late 1930s. Photo: Bettina Jenny. Courtesy Zentralbibliothek Zurich, Ms. Oprecht. Opposite: View of Rämistrasse to Bellevue, 1939. Courtesy Baugeschichtliches Archiv Zurich.
Order and rebellion, rebellion and order: In 1965, Swiss conservatism prevailed when the local council in Zurich, disdaining Alberto Giacometti’s imagery of existential isolation, refused to acquire his works; the Giacometti Society was founded as a result. A year later, at the award ceremony for the Zurich Art Prize,
German professor Emil Staiger attacked modernism: Its scribes, he sneered, wallowed in filth and sewage rather than aspiring to the celestial realms of Goethe. Novelists Max Frisch and Hugo Loetscher, who had just published Abwässer, his tale about the Zurich sewer system, were quick to protest. And, in 1967, the great dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt, speaking in honor of Swiss painter Varlin, joined in mocking the hermetic Staiger, whom he described as oblivious to the fact that the writing coming out of Bellevue was already on its way to becoming world literature. There is a photo of the colossal intellects Frisch and Dürrenmatt, again at Kronenhalle, sitting opposite one another, oblivious to the fact that one day, in that very same place, they would have a falling out that would last the rest of their lives, after Dürrenmatt affectionately called Frisch his “sidekick.” * * * But let us turn back many more years in the annals. In 1925, Oprecht opened his bookstore, across the street from another operated by Henri Wengér, the Librairie Française. In 1933, Oprecht assembled a symbolic funeral pyre of books in his shop window to protest a decision by German authorities to ban his publications in Germany and its occupied areas. That same year, he started Europa Verlag, which published works by exiled authors such as Ernst Bloch, Max Horkheimer, Max Hermann-Neisse, Ignazio Silone, Walter Mehring, Alfred Polgar, Else Lasker-Schüler and Thomas Mann. Oprecht’s courage must be understood against the backdrop of developments in Switzerland at the time— the bankers quietly helping to bankroll the Nazi war effort; the authorities plainly proclaiming to Jewish refugees fleeing Germany that the “lifeboat is full.” Oprecht and his wife, Emmie, regularly received exiled artists and intellectuals at their apartment on Hirschengraben 20, just across from the German consulate. They also did what they could to help refugees relocate or hide from the police. “All conceivable imagination and energy and all available material means were mustered to help the persecuted persevere,” Emmie later wrote of that time. “Every fate weighed heavily, every life counted.” When Oprecht was expelled from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in 1937, the Swiss Federal Council also threatened to ban the polemical books he published, including Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations With Hitler), which sold 32,000 copies. After the war broke out,
Oprecht bookstore, 1968. Photo: Candid Lang. © Candid Lang/ Fotostiftung Schweiz. Courtesy Zentralbibliothek Zurich, Ms. Oprecht.
the Book Section of the Military Department of Press and Radio kept close track of Oprecht’s publications, even as Emmie was at work meticulously correcting the galleys of the books the authorities vilified. When the war ended and the tide turned, Oprecht at last received official recognition, to his great amusement. “That’s odd: we’re suddenly in such demand!” he said in 1945 to the historian Jean Rodolf von Salis, when the two were invited to the Bundeshaus, Switzerland’s seat of government, for consultations on reorganizing cultural exchange in Europe. “After having been suspect and outcast for years, harassed in every conceivable way and tormented with censorship, we are politely received and asked for advice and collaboration.” Though Zurich’s gestures of appreciation toward Oprecht have not been overwhelming (a few years after the bookstore closed in 2003, the City Council named a square and a small street after him), his legacy is preserved in the form of his expansive publishing archives, kept at the
Zentralbibliothek, the city’s main library. Upon Emil’s death in 1952, Thomas Mann touched upon the special role his friend played in literary history: “He was a dreamer and writer, attuned to loneliness. He was born a man among men in business, rigorously working, advising, administering and presiding. But it was this knowledge of worldly ways beyond convictions that made his proficiency so endearing; always mindful of carving a path for the good, the true, the beautiful, thus making the man of deeds a friend to us dreamers. My most beautiful memory of him is that of an hour in one of his offices on New Year’s Eve in 1936, when I read out loud to him the letter I had just written to Bonn, a polemic against the corrupters of Germany, which—thanks to his initiative—became world news. Never will I forget the expression of this man, often perceived as cool and matter-of-fact, upon taking my hand in silence and pressing it. I think there were tears in his eyes.”
Emmie took over the bookstore in Emil’s absence and became a legendary figure in her own right (for instance, sharing her knowledge and books with Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti). When she died in 1990, Barbara Siedler, who had been working at the bookstore since 1968, took over. The operation thrived for years: books mobbed the shelves, floor to ceiling. On the first floor, a homme de lettres like Loetscher could discover fabulous finds in the archives of the publishing house. The cave of literature that Emmie Oprecht and Barbara Siedler cultivated proved a perfect complement to that companion Zurich cultural hub presided over by another woman, just across the street—Hulda Zumsteg’s Kronenhalle, where Joyce, Picasso, Giacometti, Brecht and Fellini held court. Dürrenmatt once wrote: “I am at home in few places / In the house over the lake / On the other side of the moon / On the stage of the theater surrounded by side scenes / And in the Kronenhalle / In Mother Zumsteg’s empire / The liver-dumpling soup steams.” (Sometimes one can afford to dine at the Kronenhalle; other times one has to make do with a hot dog from the Vorderen Sternen, while staring in the Kronenhalle’s elegantly steamed windows.) Buchhandlung Oprecht was among the wave of local bookstores that shuttered, sadly, in the early 2000s. The reclamation and renovation of Rämistrasse 5 is a poetic palingenesis for the love of ideas and of books— this time art books—and yet another strata of impulsive psychic topography layered atop the sober Biedermeier landscape.
When the war ended and the tide turned, Oprecht at last received official recognition, to his great amusement. “That’s odd: we’re suddenly in such demand!”
* * * Literary bohemia wasn’t, of course, the only cultural strain running counter to straight-laced Zurich society. In the late ’60s and ’70s, a new subculture claimed Bellevue, with Café Odeon and the building’s first floor the central locale for all manner of vice. Performance artist and musician Dieter Meier recalled the seductive lure of the area: “Almost daily, [I] would steal around the Odeon block several times to catch a glimpse of the naked dancers in their itsy-bitsy panties and tiny silver stars on their breasts,” he wrote, “fascinated that right here on the first floor women were taking their clothes off night after night.” In the late 1970s, Club Hey, formerly a gay disco, burgeoned into the first punk club in Zurich. Meier played there before founding the pioneering electro-pop band Yello with Boris Blank and catapulting to international fame in the ’80s. In 1977, Pietro Mattioli took a series of black-and-white
From top: (from left) Erika Mann, Emil Oprecht, Thomas Mann with his grandsons Frido and Toni, and Emmie Oprecht upon the Manns’ trip to Europe from the U.S. after the war, 1947. Photo: Margrit Schmidhauser. Courtesy Zentralbibliothek Zurich, Ms. Oprecht. Emmie and Emil Oprecht’s dog, Asso, in front of Oprecht & Helbling, circa 1930s. Courtesy Zentralbibliothek Zurich, Ms. Oprecht.
portraits of the club’s young patrons, among them Peter Fischli. They belonged to a generation that refused to remain underground, celebrating defiantly what made them different; their patron saint, the performer, muse and prostitute known as Lady Shiva, received them into her circle of admirers, which included occasional Zurich visitors like Warhol, Bowie and Jagger. Recently, Frank Castorf premiered his stage version of Dürrenmatt’s novel Justiz (The Execution of Justice) at the Schauspielhaus. When the curtain opened, a circular stage appeared, divided into a Corbusier building, a porn theater on Langstrasse and the glazed pavilion of Bellevue, fitted with a chandelier like Kronenhalle’s. The audience immediately felt so at home they burst into spontaneous applause. In my years in Zurich, I’ve experienced Bellevue not as a museum but as a breeding ground of ideas. It was here that filmmaker Daniel Schmid kissed my feet in the Odeon one evening after reading my book Shades of Sade, whose galleys Michael Pfister and I had left with Barbara Siedler at Buchhandlung Oprecht. It was here that I first saw the artist Urs Fischer, dancing in an illegal club, though I was busy trying to catch the eye of a woman in optimistic anticipation of waking in her room the following morning, to the sound of a screeching No. 11 tram. It was here, in 1991, that Henrik Kaestlin, the owner of the Odeon, canceled a reading whose participants were pushing for the restoration of the restaurant to its former glory. So all of us simply changed course that night, and by dawn the next morning, at Galerie Koller, the great actor Bruno Ganz was reading aloud pieces from a past that embodied our hopes for the future. * * * Readers will note this essay’s topsy-turvy timeline and associations. I submit them earnestly as a retort to Zurich’s bourgeois morality and a reflection of the city’s countervailing forces: the Oprechts’ resistance to the Nazis; the anarchists’ protests; the drug den behind the Café Odeon; Paul Éluard reading at the Librairie Française; the creations and destructions born at the tables of the Kronenhalle; Lady Shiva’s outrageous glamour; Giacometti’s plaster figures, once rejected, now given pride of place in the expanded Kunsthaus. The battles waged by these revolutionaries, the marginal and the momentous, make Zurich the living, breathing city it is today and Bellevue the locus of its soul.
Feeding the Coyotes
This page: Lyn Kienholz, 1960s. Opposite: Lyn, 1970s. Photos: Courtesy Estate of Lyn Kienholz.
Lyn Kienholz’s crusade for Los Angeles art
by Carol Kino
Since her death in January, Lyn Kienholz has been widely honored—an honor she never fully received during her lifetime— for planting the seed that flowered into the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time, the sprawling exhibition series in 2011 and 2012 that broadened the scope of American art history, propelling under-recognized West Coast artists like Doug Wheeler, Mary Corse and John Outterbridge into a canon previously ruled by East Coast powers. I met Lyn several years before, in 2007, during a stint in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship, a program whose mission was partly to expose mid-career arts journalists to the abundant cultural universe of Los Angeles. This had also been Lyn’s personal mission almost her entire adult life—the fervent enlightening of writers and of practically anyone she met that “the full story” of Los Angeles art, as she once described it to me, remained unknown and untold. She proselytized one meal at a time, throwing dinner parties at her Hollywood Hills home, where she’d bring together artists, curators, critics, musicians and filmmakers for conversation and casual homemade food. (“You wouldn’t get filet mignon,” her friend Thomas Rhoads told The Los Angeles Times. “You might get meatloaf and lots of wine, and you could smoke as much marijuana as you like. Meanwhile, she’d be out probably feeding the coyotes.”) I arrived for one of these dinners primed with only the basics: how she’d entered the art world as the assistant at the storied Ferus Gallery in 1961, just before it presented Andy Warhol’s first commercial show; how she’d married Ed Kienholz, a gallery founder and a titanic figure in the L.A. art world, in 1966; how in the 1970s, after their divorce, she’d briefly run an illegal restaurant in this same house; and how in 1981, she had sold her ex-husband’s controversial sculpture Back Seat Dodge ’38 (1964) to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to help bankroll her nonprofit, California/ International Arts Foundation, which promoted California art. I’d decided I needed to know her even before I stepped through her funky Dutch kitchen
door that night. By the end of it, taken by her riotous laugh, I was helping her do the dishes, and we were on our way to a friendship. After returning to New York, I wrote a piece for The New York Times about the encyclopedia of L.A. artists she’d worked on for years. Published in 2010 as L.A. Rising: SoCal Artists Before 1980, it was a colossal undertaking: a compendium of 497 Southland artists that has become an indispensable reference. On a trip back to Los Angeles, she invited me to stay in one of her guest rooms, conferring membership to a club that included museum directors, like the Centre Pompidou’s Alfred Pacquement, artists like Rick Lowe, and a host of lesser-known creative types, like me— basically anyone she enjoyed having around and/or wanted to promote and encourage. A stay always involved a dinner, usually assembled with fixings from Costco. That’s how I got to know Olga Garay, then L.A.’s cultural affairs commissioner; and Sammy Hoi, then
president of Otis College of Art and Design; and Joan Weinstein of the Getty Research Institute; and the artist Suzanne Lacy, whom I later wrote about, and so many more. Even today, people I was too jet-lagged at the time to remember, say to me, “Yes, I met you at Lyn’s!” On one trip to Casa Kienholz, as Lyn called it, I—like many others—received my own key. That was partly because Lyn wanted her friends to feel free to come and go, but also so she could be free of us, for she had work to do. When you came down to breakfast, Lyn would already be in her office beside the kitchen, swearing like a sailor at her computer as her longtime collaborator, the curator Elizabeta Betinski, sat calmly by. She’d soon speed off to meetings in a car whose trunk was jammed with catalogs destined for museum bookstores. Under the auspices of her foundation, she organized more than a hundred exhibitions, at least 13 of which traveled internationally, starting with a show of California sculptors for the 1984 L.A.
Her two favorite expressions were “I’m only a schlepper” and “I’m a sherpa.”
That’s what she had said when I interviewed her about the encyclopedia. “I’m not a scholar, I’m a schlepper!” Then she rattled off a list of all the categories particular to California that she believed had to be included: assemblage; video; performance; light and space; finish fetish; textile art; plein air, hard edge and realist painting; muralism; public sculpture; and surf and custom car culture— just for starters. Even if an artist didn’t interest her, she said—firmly and authoritatively, sounding nothing like a schlepper—“it’s important that they are in the book.” And when they did, she was thrilled, as with her inclusion of the custom-car-painting pioneer Kenneth Howard, better known as Von Dutch, legendarily the first to apply flames to the nose of a hot rod. I’ve often wondered if Lyn’s ostentatious demurrals were just the most effective way she found to get things done as a straight, attractive, intensely driven woman in a midcentury, macho man’s world. Born in 1932 in Chicago and raised nearby, she’d come west as the wife of a Caltech engineer and had briefly paid dues as a bored suburban housewife, a memory that made her shudder long after the marriage was over. Sprung free in L.A., she landed the job at Ferus after first pursuing a film career. “I desperately wanted to be a producer,” she once told me. “But in those days, a woman couldn’t get into the union.”
Edward Kienholz, Back Seat Dodge ’38, 1964; paint, fiberglass and flock, 1938 Dodge, recorded music and player, chicken wire, beer bottles, artificial grass, cast plaster figures.
Instead she directed a light opera company and worked at the gallery, before marrying the ultimate macho man, Kienholz. “There were five wives— I was number four,” she said. She leapt into the art world with both feet, running Kienholz’s studio during the making of some of his greatest assemblages, like the powerfully disturbing Five Car Stud (1969–72)—which depicts the lynching of an African-American man by five white attackers. “Ed said, ‘When you married me, I became your career.’ I believed him.” Yet from his career grew her own. She was deeply inspired by their European travels, which allowed her to meet museum people and understand how art made it into institutions and into art history. When people would tell her, “There’s no good work being made in L.A.,” she’d practically yell: “There’s lots of good work!” After the divorce, she set out to prove it. That’s how she became the city’s art sherpa, guiding European curators through L.A. artists’ studios. As one of the few non-museum members of CIMAM, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, she pushed for the group’s first annual meeting west of New York, organizing it herself, in L.A. in 1990. She consulted on important European exhibitions of Southern California art, like the 1997 “Sunshine and Noir” show, which opened at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum and traveled, and the Pompidou’s 2006 “Los Angeles 1955– 1985.” In 2012, she received her most public honor, from another country: a Légion d’Honneur for her support of Franco-California relations. Long after Pacific Standard Time opened, as neglected artists’ careers finally took off, Lyn’s freewheeling role in making it happen was never fully understood; it took until her obituaries for that understanding to emerge. Despite the fact that she loudly declared herself but a handmaiden, I think she secretly craved recognition for having played a part in such a turning point for the city she loved. Who wouldn’t? Yet she always seemed so self-sufficient, so self-contained over the years of our acquaintance that it was hard to know how to make this happen, or what to give her. So, Lyn, I give this to you now, my tribute. You did what you set out to do: rewrite art history. The sherpa led us to the mountaintop.
© Museum Associates and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Courtesy LACMA, purchased with funds provided by the Art Museum Council Fund.
Olympic Arts Festival; published scores of catalogs; and operated two websites, launched on dial-up in 2001, that included video interviews with such important L.A. figures as the artist Betye Saar and the architect Frank Gehry. Then there were the archival projects, like the one that gave rise to Pacific Standard Time. As the story goes, Lyn and her good friend Henry Hopkins, the founding director of the Hammer Museum, realized that the archives of local artists, collectors and dealers were disappearing as their owners died, and the two sounded the alarm to the Getty, which had the resources to take on such a vast rescue operation. Armed with two research grants, Lyn established the 2002–04 L.A. History Project and began formally documenting the endangered material. When I met Lyn, she had secured yet another Getty grant to research the archives of local AfricanAmerican galleries and artists, whose histories were even more deeply buried than that of other neglected West Coast art scenes. Despite these hard-won achievements, Lyn was celebrated mostly—at least by the time I knew her—as a hostess and social connector. I think that’s partly due to the very disregard of California’s art that she had fought so long to overturn. But it was also because she was constitutionally unable to toot her own horn. Her two favorite expressions were “I’m only a schlepper” and “I’m a sherpa.”
New and forthcoming books
My Mother Laughs (The Song Cave) Among the consolations of aging are the mechanisms that allow discomfort to pass somehow with greater ease and that heighten the significance of seemingly ordinary moments. Belgian filmmaker Chantal Ackerman (1950-2015) presents a memoir structured around reflections on her mother’s chronic illness. Like verses enlivening a familiar chorus, her mother’s laughter pierces the days, weeks and months leading to her decline. Charged with the meticulous yet mundane rigor of her film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975), this book, the last Ackerman wrote, is a testament to the disorienting power of the commonplace. —A.S.
Alay-Oop (New York Review of Books Comics) This re-release of William Gropper’s 1937 graphic novel, illustrated at the height of his career as a newspaper cartoonist, presents a sentimentally theatrical tale: two circus performers and the capitalizing Casanova who comes between them. In Alay-Oop’s New York, speckled ink scaffolds city skylines and brushstrokes transform into leaping acrobats. Gropper serves social realism in bold lines that bristle with energy; living room scenes laced with illusions to class struggle and trapeze leaps that fall just short of the American Dream. —Anna Shinbane
Call Ampersand Response (Lars Müller Publications) If you’ve ever been on the subway and lowered your headphones to eavesdrop on a particularly intense, ultimately inscrutable, conversation, this book is for you. It’s a second, expanded edition of a pas de deux that artists Michael Dumontier and Micah Lexier performed from 2011 to 2017, through e-mail exchanges of images that had to be in some way connected, calls and responses following one after another in rebus fashion. The book—this edition contains the entire run of the artists’ 196 exchanges, more than 300 grayscale images of diagrams and found photographs—feels like a performative exhibition, frozen in time. —Justin Chance
Louise Nevelson: I Must Recompose the Environment (Inventory Press) When Louise Nevelson, one of the 20th century’s most irrepressibly individualistic sculptors, died in 1988, the critic John Russell, in The New York Times, fondly recalled one of her early exhibitions in which she began to form her everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach to making shows into all-encompassing experiences, an idea ahead of its time. “She devised a complete circus in which the performers (both human and animal), the audience and the walls of the circus tent were all most carefully presented.…Nothing from the show was sold, and when it was over, she took the work back to her studio and burned it.” This welcome, historical deep dive revisits her first museum retrospective, when she was granted free rein in 1967 to fully transform the Rose Art Museum into a theatrical environment for her sculpture, the product of an adventurous faith in artists that more museums should revisit today. —Randy Kennedy
New books from Hauser & Wirth Publishers
ATELIER CALDER ANNOUNCES 2019 ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE
Calder: Nonspace Calder: Nonspace takes its title from a 1963 essay by American novelist James Jones, written after his encounter with a group of large-scale sculptures at Alexander Calder’s studio in Saché, France. In his essay, reprinted in this book, Jones describes the ways in which Calder’s deep understanding of architectural and natural environments enabled him to reorder a viewer’s perception of the world surrounding his sculptures. This catalogue offers a contemplation
of Calder’s vision through vivid illustration of an 2018–19 installation at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles of 30 stabiles, mobiles and standing mobiles woven through a custom architectural environment created by Stephanie Goto, along with five largescale works set outdoors. Goto contributes an essay exploring the transformation of a classical gallery into a unified sculptural experience, and Andrew Berardini writes about the notion of formal liveliness in Calder’s work in the junctures where space meets space to make form.
Postcard showing aerial view of Calder’s home and studio in Saché. © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The Inner Mirror: Conversations With Ursula Hauser Art Collector Defining the works in Ursula Hauser’s collection is a matter of identity, one fused with her life story—her early years in eastern Switzerland, where she was born in 1939; motherhood; leading her father’s electronics business; and starting an art gallery with her daughter and son-in-law. Family has been the steady axis around which Hauser’s life orbits; for her, the artists she collects belong within the same magnetic locus. To understand her collection is to know her and to chart a highly personal course through late 20th-century and early 21st-century art, highlighted by the work of under-recognized women.
Louise Bourgeois & Pablo Picasso: Anatomies of Desire Coupling the works of Louise Bourgeois and Pablo Picasso––at first glance an unlikely duo––results in a thought-provoking discourse on the artists’ formal and iconographic links. Inspired by archaic and primitive sources, both Bourgeois and Picasso explored interpretations of fertility and mother deities; late in life, both focused on eroticism, sexuality and intimacy. In the summer of 2019, objects from the artists will be presented in Hauser and Wirth’s Zurich gallery, the first two-person exhibition in which a female sculptor’s works have been put into an extended dialogue with those of Picasso. The publication builds on the complex conversation about gender sparked by the show, with texts by the exhibition’s curator Marie-Laure Bernadac (former curator at the Louvre, Picasso Museum, and Centre Pompidou), Émilie Bouvard (art historian and curator), Ulf Küster (curator at the Fondation Beyeler), Gérard Wajcman (psychoanalyst and writer), and Diana Widmaier Picasso (art historian).
A Luta Continua: The Sylvio Perlstein Collection Over more than five decades, Sylvio Perlstein has assembled an intensely personal collection rooted in a passion for the work of groundbreaking, often difficult, artists, a commitment to self-education, and an affinity for a wide range of mediums. The collection traces the course of 20th-century art, from Dada and Surrealism to Abstraction, Land Art, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Pop Art, Arte Povera, Nouveau Réalisme and Contemporary Art. Produced to document the 2018 exhibition at Hauser & Wirth New York and in conjunction with the 2019 exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, this catalogue sheds new light on the collection through a conversation between Perlstein and Marc Payot, the gallery’s partner and vice president, as well as essays by Matthieu Humery, David Rosenberg and Luc Sante, who focuses on the wealth of Surrealist photography included in the collection.
EVA KOT'ÁTKOVÁ WILLIAM LAMSON ALICE ANDERSON
33 CALDER FOUNDATION
Playing the Music of the Spheres
Matthew Day Jackson in conversation with space-program engineer Don Eyles
on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing 35
have a strong opinion about that, but it’s certainly at least a craft. It’s not a deductive science.
This spread: Don Eyles and Matthew Day Jackson. Photos: Kenneth Bachor. Previous spread: Fabio Mauri, Luna (Moon), 1968; room installation, Styrofoam, black paint. © Estate Fabio Mauri. Courtesy the Estate of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Yuma Martellanz.
The March 17, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone magazine carried a headline typical of the mock-screaming tenor of the publication in those days, but eye-stopping even so: “Weird-Looking Freak Saves Apollo 14!” The “freak” in question, Don Eyles, a young hippieish software engineer described as wearing “John Lennon glasses, a drooping mustache, long blond hair, black cords and shitkickers,” had achieved a degree of celebrity the previous month after firing off a salvo of last-minute computer code that saved the Apollo 14 mission, the third to reach the moon, from a faulty switch that threatened to abort its landing. Yet in an unsung sense, Eyles—along with a group of fellow engineers at MIT—had already been a national hero for years, for the pioneering software they had developed that guided man more than 200,000 miles to the surface of the moon for the first time, on July 20, 1969, a watershed moment in American history and the capstone to a pivotal, tumultuous decade. To mark the 50th anniversary of that event, Eyles— author of the 2018 book Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir—sat down recently with the artist Matthew Day Jackson, whose work for more than a decade has explored the esoteric, darkly poetic implications of the interplay between technology and human evolution, in pieces drawing from inspirations as disparate as Buckminster Fuller, Borges, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Life magazine, the first atomic bomb and Viking burial ships. These are excerpts from their conversation, conducted in Jackson’s studio in Brooklyn.
Matthew Day Jackson So there we were. It was 2008. Don Eyles You were at MIT doing a residency. I was nearby but somehow we never met. A friend of mine was working on the installation of your show there [“Matthew Day Jackson: The Immeasurable Distance,” 2009, which riffed on aspects of the Apollo space missions, drag racing and Buckminster Fuller, among other subjects]. But then I made bold to e-mail you afterwards, and we became acquainted. And I visited your studio in…Where was it? MDJ It was in Gowanus, in Brooklyn, the same neighborhood we’re in now but a different place. Was the airplane in the studio when you were there? God, that was crazy. DE No airplane, but there were a bunch of the big astronaut figures who seemed to be assembled as pallbearers. What was the name of that piece? MDJ It was called The Tomb. It was based on a sculpture from the Louvre that I fell in love with, called the Tomb of Philippe Pot, from 15th-century Burgundy. It was a funerary monument. I saw that sculpture during my first trip to Paris, and I absolutely fell in love with that thing. DE There was a coffin but I can’t remember what was in it. I certainly remember the astronaut figures. The way they stooped in those moon suits did remind me of mourning. MDJ The coffin contained a series of sculptures, sort of abstractions of the human form, melded with
trees and plants. There’s geometry that I’ve always thought of as being “hopeful geometry,” which is geometry that doesn’t have right angles. So the forms in the boxes were my sculptural expression of evolution and how I don’t believe that we’re just flesh and bone, but rather that the things we make are sort of appendages grown along the path of evolution. DE So it wasn’t that they were mourning anything in particular, their lost innocence after going into space or… MDJ No, but that is something I’ve been interested in, that particular loss of innocence that came with Apollo. My meeting you initially was a little bit like meeting a star or a professional athlete or somebody that you look up to without really knowing who they are. Only very recently has the figure of the programmer become more visible in our society. DE Did we feel invisible in those days? I don’t know if we felt invisible, but I certainly had no idea of the amount of attention we would eventually receive. When I was writing code, I did sometimes think to myself that, 100 years from now, somebody might study it from some completely different angle. There’s the whole question of whether writing code is an art form or not. I don’t
MDJ I initially learned about Luminary and Colossus [source code for the Apollo missions, developed by dozens of MIT engineers, including Eyles and Margaret Hamilton], when the art curator Bill Arning took me through the history museum at MIT. He pulled down this dusty box from a shelf, and as we sorted through it, I started to see that it wasn’t just code but things I could understand. Then, when we happened upon the part of the code that you guys called “Burn, Baby, Burn,” that’s when it broke out of being a relic and became something I could understand. Because it recorded the personalities of the authors of this digital language that’s supposed to have no signature. For me, that’s when it emerged from technology into meaning, things I was thinking about at the time. The author became a person with a story. That’s what led me to want to know you. DE From my point of view, the art—if any—was in the code itself, not in the comments that gave a glimpse of who we were. The comments were just some of the froth around the top, as it were. But it is what people could fasten onto. The origin
Siah Armajani, Moon Landing, 1969; stenciled television, lock, ink on five double-sided sheets of newspaper. Courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi.
of “Burn, Baby, Burn,” in particular, is interesting. My colleague Peter Adler and I worked on the code for the lunar module. We divided the mission into powered flight phases and coasting flight phases. He did the phases for the orbital maneuvering, the mid-course corrections and so forth. I did the lunar landing. We realized that we were duplicating each other’s code, because the procedures leading up to lighting the rocket, in each of those cases, were very similar. We would turn on the powered flight navigation system at the time of ignition minus 30 seconds. Because you’re in zero G, the fuel tanks tend to develop bubbles, so you need to do a little bit of thrusting before you light the main engine, to make the fuel settle in the bottom of the tank, so it’ll draw smoothly. That’s at seven and a half seconds before time of ignition. At minus five seconds, we always gave the astronauts a display that offered them the opportunity to approve the burn. If they didn’t press the button during that five seconds, we didn’t light the engine. But at time of ignition, it’s lighted. At some interval after that, the engine needs to be throttled up to its maximum thrust. All those things were somewhat in common, with a few variations for what Peter and I were doing. So we ended up writing one piece of code to handle all of it. It was fairly elegant, because it used something called a jump table, which meant that for each segment you could have a custom piece or it could use the same piece as something else. By putting all those together, we achieved some economies of scale. The name we ultimately gave it came from the Watts riots in L.A., as covered by Life magazine. I believe one of the headlines was “Burn, Baby, Burn,” because that was something that was shouted by the rioters. Feeling a little bit fresh, we took that as the name of that routine,
because it was about burning the engine, lighting up the engine. MDJ In order to accomplish that task, you needed to know intimately what the steps were—how to get there, what was happening, bubbles in gas tanks and so forth—and, in a strange way, know the aircraft, because the astronauts also knew that spacecraft incredibly well. They had to, right? DE Well, they were essentially generalists. They are not trustworthy, these days at least, on the real details. They were focused on what they needed to know to fly and to save their butts if something went wrong. Beyond that, they didn’t know the intricacies. Practically every technical explanation I’ve ever read from an astronaut is wrong, when it gets down to the code. Buzz Aldrin still doesn’t understand exactly what caused the alarms on Apollo 11! MDJ This brings in the other person that I met during that time at MIT, who became a friend. I found a lot of inspiration in reading David Mindell’s Digital Apollo , which was about the thinking around the concept of feedback between humans and computers, and the concept that the astronauts were flying this vehicle. I was super-interested in the things that were built into that machine to make the astronauts feel more at home as humans in the cockpit flying that thing. When you’re talking about Aldrin not really fully understanding what was happening, how much of that lack of understanding do you think was actually not wanting to know? DE You know, astronauts are also storytellers. I think you can say that about pilots in general. They have a reputation for saying, “Oh, I shot down
15 airplanes,” when it was really one confirmed. They have to speak to so many people, so they have the right to their stories, and we ought not to hold them to real technical accuracy, I think. There’s the Apollo 14 story about me being asleep and an Air Force car pulling into my driveway and someone pounding on my door and me putting a bathrobe over my pajamas and being rushed to the lab and told, “Solve this problem!” That’s another one of those tall tales. But until recently, Dave Scott, the commander of Apollo 14, still believed it. I finally had occasion to talk him out of it. I don’t think he tells it anymore. But people love these stories. To some extent, I don’t mind. MDJ There’s so much in our culture about astronauts being special, because they somehow exemplify our myths and beliefs. To a certain degree, we expect from them those stories. We expect them to reinforce that idea. That’s what’s so interesting about you and your job in relation to this—what you did is largely not understandable to most people. DE A little bit arcane. But the civilization is slowly growing into it. Kids learn software in school now. It will become more and more accessible. Back then, software was still being spelled S-O-F-T-W-E-A-R as often as not. MDJ We’ve all heard a million times that the Apollo Guidance Computer had the processing power of a Texas Instruments calculator; that was definitely part of what I was drawn to. But then I learned more about the so-called “little old ladies” who actually hand-wove the computer [specialized seamstresses at Raytheon in Waltham, Massachusetts, threaded copper wires through magnetic rings to form the computer’s memory banks]. It’s like the finest jewelry you could ever imag-
Clockwise from top: Kiki Kogelnik, Moon Baby, 1968, silkscreen on paper, 39 ⅜ × 27 ½". Courtesy of Kiki Kogelnik Foundation. Tom Sachs, Space Program, 2007 , installation view, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA. Photo: Josh White. Matthew Day Jackson, The Tomb, 2010; found wood, plastic resin, stainless steel, glass, sycamore, scythe blade, neon tubes, Charles and Ray Eames leg brace, yarn, silver, tool dip, tiger eye. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
“I think the moonlanding images were… frightening for people. It felt like civilization was sticking its neck out when we did that, and people maybe became afraid…and so they have gone back to the more familiar area of war as a way of expressing power.”
ine in this unbelievably exquisite machine. It was amazing to see the computer when I first went to MIT, whose collection has bits and parts of the thing—what it physically looked like and felt like, and understanding that this thing was entirely handmade. Also, the program that went into the thing was totally custom built. From a sculptor’s perspective, it’s like…whoa. DE There was no sense of opposition between what the man was doing and what the machine was doing, because both were needed. A man couldn’t fly that trajectory in a fuel-efficient way without the help of the computer. But there would be no way of landing at a specific spot on the moon without the man. His eyes and his judgment during that last couple of minutes coming down to the moon were absolutely vital. That same mission could not have been safely completed automatically. MDJ When I was at MIT, I had tried to talk them into allowing me to put my naked body into their wind tunnel, which is named after the Wright Brothers, then have them turn it up to 160 miles an hour to roughly approximate the feeling of falling at terminal velocity through low Earth atmosphere. I wanted to have the experience of falling, but I didn’t want to actually be falling. I could have jumped out of an airplane, but to record my experience that way would have been be difficult. I wanted the experience to be recorded without affectation. So I wanted the camera to film how I was reacting to this situation without the camera falling as well. I didn’t want the viewer to be falling with me. I wanted to have an illusion of agency, which was inspired by that idea that there is a computerized system that is fundamental to making such an illusion possible—in testing airplanes, aerodynamics, all of it. But I
also wanted to have the immediate reaction of a human being looking at where he’s going and telling the machine what to do—how these things need to work in conjunction with one another. I’m not interested in the technical part; I’m interested in what it means. You’ve had a long time to think about your part in this and how important this narrative is in our culture. There are always two benchmarks for a nation to express its value… DE War and exploration? MDJ Totally. Nuclear capability and space travel. Those are really the pinnacle of expressing power in the world. DE We’ve drawn back from it, or at least in this country—we landed on the moon 50 years ago and haven’t gone as far as that since. MDJ Way back. What, like, only 120 miles away from Earth’s surface? DE I sometimes wonder if those images of landing on the moon were more frightening than we think. The 9/11 images, for instance—I don’t think there’s any question that that’s one of the reasons why this country has acted spasmodically since then in its foreign policy and other ways. And witness what’s happening now, politically. But I think the moon-landing images were also frightening for people. It felt like civilization was sticking its neck out when we did that, and people maybe became afraid of that, and so they have gone back to the more familiar area of war as a way of expressing power. MDJ I think it’s not necessarily the images of the surface of the moon or images of a human being on the moon, but rather it’s the pictures looking back, that image of the
“earthrise” that was on the cover of the Whole Earth Catalog, that showed the totality of every single thing that we’ve ever known and experienced. DE You’d think logically that seeing that would have the opposite effect. That it would have made us more responsible and given us more of a sense of togetherness on earth. MDJ I think for a lot of people, those images did have that effect but maybe not for enough. You know, I’d like to go back for a second, to your history: you applied to the famous Draper Lab, which was then at MIT, as a summer job? [The lab, founded in 1932 by Charles Stark “Doc” Draper (1901–87), has played a pivotal role in developments for commercial and military aircraft, weapons systems and spacecraft.] DE It was summer, but I was applying for a full-time job. MDJ The way that it’s been told to me was that it wasn’t as purposeful. You weren’t going there because you knew what was being undertaken. DE That’s somewhat true. I needed a job. I would have taken just about anything that had been offered to me. I’d just been to an interview for what I’m sure would have been a deadly dull job working for some company. I happened to walk by the lab on my way home. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn’t. I saw the sign on the door, took a deep breath, and went in. It happened very quickly after that. They were hiring wholesale. I was a not very illustrious mathematics graduate. The guy who interviewed me said, “I’ve even hired literature majors.” I think the fact that I said, “Well, I can always be a technical writer,” may have entered into it, because that’s always hard to get people
“I mean, I would love to hear Buzz Aldrin talk about his feelings.” Matthew Day Jackson
to do. Fortunately, I escaped that. I was at the right place and the right time, which continued when I was assigned to work on the lunar landing, because that was, by far, the most complex but also the most interesting part of the mission. It’s the thing that led to all my interesting experiences. The lunar module was a new vehicle, a truly experimental vehicle that no one fully understood. MDJ I’ve been very lucky to meet a lot of really remarkable people, but you’re the weirdest one, because you’re also an artist. Were you making art back then, too? DE I was doing some photography. I don’t draw a hard line between art and technology, or art and engineering. I think they’re very parallel, if not the same thing practically. I mean, the motivation may be different. I’m not talking about painting nudes, for example, which I know nothing about. Maybe there’s not much relationship between painting the body and engineering a space project. But for lots of kinds of art, I think there is a parallel, in the sense that there’s a period of time where you’re trying to design and fabricate the thing— whatever it is, the sculpture. Then, there’s a moment when it goes out into the world. And if it’s a spacecraft, that’s the launch, and it has its mission. If it’s a floating sculpture, like some of the stuff I’m doing in Boston, then it goes into the water, and that’s a harsh environment. Sooner or later, something is going to happen, and you don’t know what. Once you’ve made it, it goes out into the world and it has a history.
MDJ There is a tremendous amount of responsibility in the systems work you did. It’s very different from making art. Art has a lot of responsibilities, but not ones in which there are two people inside an object in outer space who need to land safely and come back home. DE You know, like they say, young soldiers are braver because they don’t know enough to be afraid. The way we expressed our responsibility was to try to think of everything and to be intellectually honest about it—to never write off a problem because we thought it was too small. If it was something we didn’t totally understand, we would make an effort to understand. We knew we wouldn’t think of everything. There was always going to be something, but we thought we’d be in a better position to deal with that something when it did occur. MDJ I think about how the astronauts— after going that far and doing this incredible thing—must feel about the rest of their time on Earth. As an artist, you make a thing and then all of your time is spent trying to better it. There’s always the pursuit of personal best, that tiny space just beyond what you’ve accomplished. That space can be infinitely far away until you’ve started to hedge into it. How is that time for you still mined? Because you’re one of the most deeply curious people in my life. How is that hunger satisfied? DE Well, there’s one space project and then there’s another one, and
you have to stop thinking about the previous one when you go onto the next one. I still look back and say, “Well, gee, why didn’t we do it this way? That way would solve that problem.” But so much of that is hindsight, and it’s fairly unproductive because I was moving on and working on the space station or the Space Shuttle. You know, I wrote software that’s still running right now in orbit. The second exciting phase of my career as a rocket scientist was at the end, in the ’90s. MDJ There’s an important aspect that I don’t think is understood about what you and your colleagues did—that it wasn’t just landing somebody on the moon and creating a different way of thinking about how human beings traveled in a machine, but it was also creating a different way in thinking about computing itself. The whole thing was new. Totally made up. DE That’s true. The toolmakers, the pioneers who came before me, are the real unsung story. People like Hal Laning, for example, who created the operating system that figured in so many of the stories, especially Apollo 11 and its ability to keep going even though there was a serious problem happening. [J. Halcombe Laning (1920–2012) developed the first algebraic compiler, which became the forerunner of important programming language such as Fortran]. And then I came along as the upper layer, maybe the more glamorous layer—the code that sits on top that has to do with actual phases of the mission, which was a lot more fun probably than creating the actual tools, but it couldn’t have been done without them. MDJ It’s like the astronauts are flying the spacecraft, but you’re flying the computer, right? That’s what
the programmer is doing; you’re making it so that a human can make the thing operate. That’s really interesting to me. I think of it in relation to what we’re experiencing now, where we have cell phones that connect to social media so that I can tell people that I’m eating key lime pie at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday or some stupid thing. But the machine that you worked on had to be extraordinarily economic in its design and manufacture because of the limits of what was known at that time and what could be accomplished with magnets and wires woven around each other. And it had to work for relatively untrained operators to fly with seeming fluency. Right? DE I think that’s fair to say. MDJ Mindell, in his book, argues that it is still fundamentally important that we have human beings exploring space because it is our direct experience that brings back to the people of Earth the awareness of ourselves in relationship to the thing that we’re exploring. But I think most of what’s happening now with space exploration is an illusion. It’s not a real experience. We’re just recording the thing that we should be experiencing. We’ve even left the responsibility of taking stuff up to our own space station in the hands of private individuals. DE But that’s a good thing! MDJ I see it as a total bankruptcy of everything. DE But if we can have cheap transportation into Earth orbit, that’s an enabler for all sorts of exciting things. We know we can assemble things in Earth orbit. It really opens the door to the imagination because, instead of designing a grand system that lifts off from the Earth, like Apollo,
we can decouple different parts of the mission. We can have one organization that creates a ferryboat that can take us from Earth orbit to lunar orbit, and some other organization can take over the part that goes from lunar orbit down to the moon, and somebody else, the part that would go to Mars. MDJ It isn’t a problem for you if it’s private industry that’s doing it? DE No, not really. And in terms of a political decision, I think Obama, who’s blamed for that, had no choice. Was he going to bust his budget in order to fulfill grandiose promises that Bush had made? Or was he going to say, as he did, that now is the time to step back a little bit? Earth orbit travel is something that private industry can handle, and we’re about to get to the point where you’ll be able to launch stuff into Earth orbit on SpaceX or Boeing’s system relatively cheaply. MDJ Yeah, I don’t know. I feel there’s something weird about it… DE It’s better if the government does it? Well, if the government would do it. MDJ I think about the good parts of the technology that got us to the moon, the parts that were for everybody and that have helped us as a species. But now that kind of technology—which was once for everybody, like a public resource— is being funneled through private industry, where it will become proprietary, purely for profit. DE Oh, I see. MDJ Maybe I’m wrong. I’m just an artist. [Laughs] But it seems like we’re giving it away to them. And then we’ll be paying rent, like Uber. Uber rides to the space station.
DE But it’s easy to get to Earth orbit. The government doesn’t need to be the one that does it. If our entire system were government run and there was no private industry, maybe, but I see privatization for that part of it as an enabler rather than as something being lost. I think it’ll free up our thinking a little bit— once we have the ability to go into Earth orbit cheaply. MDJ Who’s going to be doing that? DE Good question. Who will take it the next step? I hope the government will still be deeply involved. Without NASA’s help, SpaceX and Boeing and so on wouldn’t have succeeded. We had a fairly lean program on Apollo, but the government space program has gotten a lot less lean since then. There are a lot more people working at NASA, yet the missions are a lot less ambitious. If you can let somebody like Musk organize the effort for the basic stuff, it can probably be done in a more lean and efficient way and give the government leeway to do more with its resources. The results have been pretty impressive so far. MDJ I don’t know… DE I always want to be an optimist, of course. The place where I’m a pessimist is about certain other trends happening in the world—the fact that by being brought closer together in the global village, religions, for example, are causing more conflict that they used to. Not to mention the environmental crisis. All those trends, I think, are terribly dangerous, and they can’t continue the way they are now. Within all of that, I actually see space flight as a bright spot, with synergies with all those problems. But it will take some will to put those synergies together, and where that effort’s
Matthew Day Jackson
Clockwise from top left: On Kawara, Moon Landing, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 61 × 89". © One Million Years Foundation. Courtesy Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Photo: Ron Amstutz. Aleksandra Mir, First Woman on the Moon, 1999; produced by Casco Projects, Wijk aan Zee, NL. Courtesy the artist. Heidi Neilson, Moon Arrow, 2018, Fort Totten, Queens, New York. Photo: Heidi Neilson. Scott Reeder, Moon Dust set, installed at 365 Mission Gallery, L. A., 2014. Courtesy the artist and Kavi Gupta. Photo: Joshua White.
“There’s geometry that I’ve always thought of as being ‘hopeful geometry,’ which is geometry that doesn’t have right angles.”
going to come from, I don’t know. It's maybe the government’s role or the role of a great leader to put that together, to make people enthusiastic about it the way Kennedy did about going to the moon. MDJ How old were you when you started working for Draper Lab? DE Twenty-three. MDJ How many other 23-year-olds were there? DE A few. Peter Adler, whom I’ve mentioned, was my age and was hired at about the same time. MDJ It’s my understanding that there was a clear generational division at Draper Lab. Do you think the fact that your generation, in the ’60s, was a lot more open to chance played a role in what you accomplished? To me, now, looking back from another generation, it seems like it couldn’t have happened at any other time. DE I agree with that, but part of it was the fact that there weren’t very many suits where I was. We were an academic lab that had the capability to do this—really the only ones at the time who could’ve done it. And I think our suits—our management structure—understood that the only way this was going to happen was if they trusted the youngsters like us. I think our managers at the lab, at MIT, saw it as part of their duty to protect us from the suits at NASA, if you want to put it that way. It was a structure originated by Doc Draper, who founded the lab and who was trying to create an Athenian democracy, as he put it, where talent would rise to the top. MDJ All these years later, do you see any darkness, so to speak, in what you all accomplished?
DE The darkness is that it feels like a lot of the work we did was wasted, in that it wasn’t followed up on—in that, we have retreated to such a degree in space. You know, I would not have believed, in 1972, that even 20 years would go by and we wouldn’t be on Mars. And now 50 years have gone by, and it’s not likely to happen any time soon. It seemed like this beautiful system had been put together. We had learned so much. Going to Mars didn’t seem like much more than just needing more fuel. The guidance problem wasn’t so different. You would’ve needed to construct the Mars ship in Earth orbit, using two or three Saturn V launches to put the materials into orbit. But we could’ve learned, then, the same on-orbit construction techniques that we later used for the space station. There really was no obstacle except money and national will. We already had the Skylab project queued up at that point, and that was going to teach us a lot about long-duration stays in zero G. So everything was in place. MDJ The thing I always get caught up on is this: What do you do on the moon? What is it about the moon? It’s not necessarily that we were going there to learn about the moon; we were going there to learn that we could go there. That’s one of the problems with how we explore our environment—which includes the moon and now outside of our solar system, as Voyager beeps its faint little beeps. It seems like we’re not really exploring the thing as much as we’re exploring ourselves and what we can accomplish with a machine to get there. DE I think that’s true. The moon is ultimately not that interesting. It’s like a barren lot strewn with junk out behind a factory somewhere.
It’s not that attractive a place. But it’s a stepping stone, and it’s not as deep a gravity well as Earth, so it’s going to be a really useful place for some technical purposes. You could also question the interest in Mars, but I predict that we will eventually find life on Mars, primitive life, and perhaps in some other niches in the solar system as well. That’s very exciting. I think that if you believe there’s any sort of destiny for mankind to keep exploring, then you have to go by way of the moon; it’s the next place you can reach. I don’t try to make predictions, but it seems like, within the next century or so, we ought to be able to explore the solar system pretty well, and taking humans, at least to get to the vicinity of Saturn and Jupiter. Whether it will really be possible to land on Titan, I don’t know, but it would be an interesting problem. And then, of course, the next really big jump is to try to go out into interstellar space, but it’s hard to imagine how we would ever get to that point. There are limitations of the speed of light and so forth. MDJ And our human bodies. Have you ever heard Werner Herzog talk about space travel? DE I don’t think so. MDJ I can’t quote him, but he’s basically saying, stop with the space nonsense. That’s not an argument that I’d make, but in thinking about how we aren’t fundamentally interested in the moon or in Mars, that we’re more interested in our ability to get there, I see his point. Maybe getting to the moon and to Mars is about the fact that we have to accomplish that step first, to understand what we’re doing, in order to go beyond and learn more. But maybe our interest in getting to those places, just to see if we can do it, is a limita-
tion of our humanness, a result of our self-absorption. DE To me it’s the first thing you said: think universally, act locally. All we can do now is go to the moon and maybe to Mars, before too long. MDJ In being an artist, I’ve always felt that nothing’s ever been done before. Nothing. The way that you step out to go to the grocery store to buy an apple is always different, even if you tried to perfectly replicate it. DE Everything’s decaying all the time. Everything is in motion all the time. MDJ If I believe that nothing’s been done before, then that means everything is original. So why get hung up on this idea that there’s this original author that’s doing this thing, that astronauts have conquered this goal that we don’t need to accomplish again… DE The enduring thing we’re making is the story. I just re-read The Iliad, a great epic. Cumulatively, all the stories out of the space program are sort of the same way. In a way, I feel more proud about writing my book than I do about the work I did in the ’60s and ’70s because I didn’t have to write the book. I wasn’t being paid to write the book. It was a story that I felt needed to be told, one that I felt I was in a unique position to tell, that I hope endures. It’s of little consequence that Troy fell to the Greeks in whatever year it was, but the story is very important to our civilization. MDJ As an artist, I don’t believe that I own anything. I’m merely a caretaker for art at this moment in time, keeping it alive, to a certain degree, for somebody else later. DE I think it’s more than that. You’re
constantly experimenting and you don’t necessarily know what’s going to come out of the experiment. MDJ Of course, I’m not saying that authorship is the least important part. I think that we are shepherds. For instance, we’re moving into the 50th anniversary of this event, and I think that we’re all trying to make sense of this thing, but I hope that we think about it more from a philosophical standpoint, rather than just look back to this great moment. I wasn’t alive then—I was born in 1974—and so this thing for me has always been a story. It’s always been tied to a number of other narratives that are also fundamentally important, like the civil rights movement. It’s like, we can land people on the moon, but we’re still stuck in so many other repetitive cycles we can’t solve. Can an event like this 50th anniversary remind us of our duty, which is much greater than ourselves, to be the shepherds moving these things forward? That’s the point that I’m trying to make in my work—by having these images persist, as an artwork, in the time that I’m living in, and not letting them fade into the past. I think it’s better than simply giving a history lesson. In writing your book and telling your story in relationship to this event, what do you hope for? DE Like a legacy? MDJ Yeah. When I said to myself, “I want to be an artist,” art showed up and was like, “Hey, here’s everything. Do with it as you will.” So, to a certain degree, in making the things that I make, I want them to be everybody’s. What do you want to accomplish with your book? DE I want kids to read it. I want something about the excitement at that
time to come through. I want to tell a good story. I want it to be read for pleasure. In my plan for the book, I wanted to make a connection between fine details—a line of code here—and a historical event there. I also wanted to say something about the times, about the milieu we were in and what I was experiencing as a youngster. I never pretended to be typical. I was eclectic. And so by bringing in some of those various things about my life, I felt that I was adding to the story of going to the moon. So yes, I’d like to influence the future. In 500 years, people may not even believe we went to the moon. Maybe the hoaxer narrative will be so strong at that point people won’t even accept the facts. If my book helps with that, too, I don’t mind. MDJ Just the idea that flat-earth hoaxers would somehow prevail is… DE It drives me crazy. I try to be polite to them to begin with, but pretty soon I get to the point of saying, “You’re just ignorant.” MDJ I think there are a lot of things that we take on faith, and what it boils down oftentimes is, what’s more fun to believe in? Even if it’s totally outlandish, well, it’s more fun. DE When you’re reading history, remember that, because history is written by the winners. MDJ The moon moves oceans, right? The gravitational pull of the moon moves ocean tides. And as long as there have been eyeballs on earth, people have looked up to the moon and thought of it in mystery. It’s fundamental in religion and mythology and all these things… DE I doubt it’s a coincidence that the lunar period coincides with the menstrual period of women.
“The moon is ultimately not that interesting. It’s like a barren lot strewn with junk out behind a factory somewhere.…But it’s a stepping stone.” Don Eyles
MDJ Do you think our space exploration or moon missions reduced any of the valuable mystery of looking up and thinking about what surrounds us? DE There will always be another mystery. What if we did kill it? The mystery was part of our motivation. It’s exciting to see what the next memory is, what the next mystery is, even if you’ve solved this one. The first solution to the elements was earth, air, fire and water. That was great. MDJ When you were in conversation with friends while you were working on the landing, did you talk about how, you know, if you missed, there would be some well-preserved corpses in tin cans floating around above us forever and ever? DE We realized that there were certain situations that could put the spacecraft into a solar orbit, and you’d never get back from that. But you did your best to do everything you possibly could to make sure that didn’t happen. More likely would be to lose your way all the way at the very end and hit the Earth’s atmosphere wrong coming back. Until we saw the parachutes from Apollo 13, for example, we didn’t know whether the crew had perished. I guess we knew at that point that they hit the atmosphere right, but we didn’t know whether their spacecraft was damaged. The silence lasted longer than it should have. But I think that was the same
moment in which the astronauts themselves realized they were still alive, after 87 hours of getting sicker and sicker in a cold spacecraft with water on the walls from the condensation and virtually everything turned off. They didn’t know whether they were already dead. MDJ There are those things—like fear of death, or fear of the unknown, or fear of missing your mark—that aren’t really talked about in many of these narratives about the space program. I like to think about the humanity of it—that we are fallible, that there are things that we don’t know, that there’s an emotional resonance left over from doing what astronauts did. For me, telling it as a kind of dominant narrative makes it like a superhero story; it flattens out the experience. I mean, I would love to hear Buzz Aldrin talk about his feelings. To dismantle a portion of how that story is told would actually lead to a deeper investigation and make the experience more real, more relatable, to people. DE The inner story of the 87 hours when you may be dead already. How do you tell that story? MDJ Well, there was the Tom Hanks movie. DE Apollo 13 was a pretty good movie, but for dramatic effect they exaggerated the explosion and the crisis of the maneuvers they had to make;
they were shown as much more violent and noisy than they were. How could they convey the utter depths of despair that three people were probably feeling at times? MDJ If the movie had been made with small explosions and mostly silence, it would probably have been much more horrifying. DE Right. The astronauts actually heard what they described as a dull thump. MDJ We should remake it. The best horror films are the ones where almost nothing happens. DE I always wondered if you could put that on the stage. Could you do Apollo 13 and explore some of these vulnerability issues? I mean, you can’t have an 87-hour play. Nobody would watch it… MDJ In art, sure you could. You could have a durational performance! DE Okay then. We could have a space craft and maybe some pieces of it come off so you can see the people inside and it hangs from the ceiling and you show maneuvers and so on. Or would so much technology in the production take away from what we were trying to do? All the dialogue exists, you know? It was all recorded. You have a basic script. MDJ I know. It would be like a durational Kabuki performance of Apollo 13, in which a lot of what happened was just waiting and silence and dread. Part of the performance would be that the audience would have to eat exactly what the astronauts ate, to create empathy. We could give everybody in the audience space diapers so that they could sit through the whole thing. 87 hours without going to the bathroom! I think we should do this.
Design by Function
An oral history of the experimental art space 84 West Broadway 1978–79
This page, from top: Sunlight, 84 West Broadway. Lawrence Weiner, Dan Graham, Peter Nadin and Louise Lawler. Opposite, from top: Nadin’s living quarters. View from Nadin’s living quarters into gallery, a work by Jane Reynolds.
In 1978, the New York artists Peter Nadin and Christopher D’Arcangelo conceived an idea for an open-ended, improvisational art space in which work by their artist friends would be made in situ and live, in essence, as the young artists themselves were living in the city—cheaply, densely, collaboratively (by choice and necessity) and often in intense response.
None of the art was intended to be for sale and probably would have confounded buyers if it were. Participants signed on to the concept of work being layered on top of others’ work, being lived in and upon, and being essentially ephemeral, allowed to wear and disintegrate over time. The physical space, at 84 West Broadway, between Chambers and Warren streets, was a plain industrial loft, of the kind artists, musicians and performers had begun to colonize in TriBeCa as SoHo became too expensive. Nadin, a painter who had moved to the city from England in 1976, lived and worked in the loft. Along with D’Arcangelo, he made ends meet by taking on construction jobs, often interior refurbishment of rough spaces like his own, for fellow artists and art patrons. D’Arcangelo, son of the well-known painter Allan D’Arcangelo, operated as a self-declared anarchist and outspoken critic of the commercial and institutional art world; his influential performances had involved illicit actions, including chaining himself to the doors of the Whitney to prevent visitors from entering. For both conceptual and political reasons, the two artists had begun in early 1978 to define their construction work as artwork—something in the way of both performance and minimalist readymade, a working-class twist on 1970s architectural
interventions like those of artists Michael Asher, Robert Irwin and Gordon MattaClark. After being hired to paint, sand and build interior walls in Louise Lawler’s loft on Greenwich Street in January 1978, the two—with Lawler’s cooperation— issued an invitation to her empty loft as a temporary exhibition called “Nine Days Work,” along with the specifics of that work: “912 sq. feet, 38 x 24'. Function by Louise Lawler. Design by function. Execution by Peter Nadin and Christopher D’Arcangelo. Materials: Celotex, Drywall, Lath and Nails. Purchased by Louise Lawler.” From that piece grew the idea for 84 West Broadway, whose opening show, “30 Days Work,” was simply the exhibition of the results of the labor that the two, along with a friend, Nick Lawson, had performed to create the art space by separating a small living quarter for Nadin from the rest of the open, empty loft. (Nadin and D’Arcangelo were, in a sense, taking up the mantle of a long-gestated notion within 20th century art. “Attempts to link art and labor have been central to American modernism,” wrote Julie BryanWilson in her 2011 study Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era.) Over the course of seven months, 11 artists added work to the space, which was opened to visitors during the day. Daniel Buren painted his trademark stripes along the baseboards and the tops of the walls. Sean Scully created a striped painting on drywall in a corner, which sat atop a stretch of Buren’s stripes. Jane Reynolds installed two peephole viewers in the middle of Scully’s painting, allowing viewers to look through it, into Nadin’s living space, and Nadin to look back. Peter Fend borrowed an iron lung from Bellevue Hospital and turned it on inside the loft, to “breathe” the room. Lawson and his girlfriend Rebecca Lisle lived inside the space on a cot, as a public performance. And the avant-garde guitarists Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, Wharton Tiers and Nina Canal played an ultra-high-
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volume performance of Chatham’s landmark “Guitar Trio,” composed just two years earlier, as a way to fill the space with sound. Amid all of this activity, Nadin and D’Arcangelo’s friends and acquaintances—the dancer Julie Barnsley, the budding musician Kim Gordon, fellow artist Richard Prince— sometimes used the loft as a place to meet and talk, a quasi-public crossroads blending gallery and residence. The plan was to continue the accretion of works and performances there indefinitely, but on April 28, 1979, D’Arcangelo inexplicably took his own life at the age of 24, and Nadin decided to end the gallery experiment, after a final work that included himself, Lawrence Weiner, Dan Graham and Lawler.
Perhaps because of the space’s brevity, and the way it came to an end, the history of 84 West Broadway—and its importance to both conceptual artists and painters at the time—has been all but lost in accounts of the art world in those years, with the exception of writings about D’Arcangelo and a few small shows, including the 1992 exhibition “One Leading to Another” at 303 Gallery, inspired by the space. Recently, Nadin— who lives in the West Village and works in a studio in the Catskills on a functioning farm that he and his wife, Anne Kennedy, operate—began to retrieve materials and documents about the loft from long-term storage, revisiting those years and some of the participants for the first time. What follows is a first attempt at a telling of the life of the space by those involved.
Final collaborative artwork in the gallery, 1979 (work by Daniel Buren and Sean Scully in the background).
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“I started to think about the essence of art being…leaving the mark of your activity. But when you’re doing construction, the mark of the hand is meant to disappear entirely. If it’s a good job the marks you make are invisible, which was pretty interesting to me.” —Peter Nadin
Peter Nadin I had moved to New York in September 1976 from Newcastle, where I’d studied. Painting for me, art, had always felt like a way to gain an understanding of the world, which had been a difficult thing growing up, because I’d had dyslexia and went to school in the North of England at a time when the system was brutal for children with those kinds of problems, brutal really for everybody. I suppose there was no good reason to come to New York then—we all knew it was in free fall, a dangerous place—but it was the place you had to go. If you were interested in theology in the 16th century, for example, you’d go to Rome, and if you felt the way I did then about art, it seemed that you had to go to New York. I fell into doing construction work to make a living, and Sean Scully helped me at one point get a job for the Pop artist Bob Stanley, who was having a show out at PS 1. And Chris was also out there, at PS 1, working on that show, and that’s where we met and we hit it off. Daniel Buren Chris was my best friend for many years. We met the first time in 1972. I guess he was about 17 years old then. He was working helping out at the John Weber Gallery, and we met around one of the first big works I did there [Within and Beyond the Frame, 1973; 19 striped banners hung along cables that began inside the gallery and extended out the window, above West Broadway.] Then we became close, and he went with me everywhere, helping me for a show in Amsterdam, in other places in Holland, in Los Angeles. He was quite extraordinary, I must say. Very smart, very quick, for being so young, and he was already forming his ideas about what we wanted to do. We were really close, like fingers on same the hand.
Clockwise from top: Nina Canal (with back to camera), Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca and Wharton Tiers. Jane Reynolds, 1979. Nick Lawson lying in Peter Fend’s iron-lung work, A Room Defined Not by Its Walls but by a Pump, 1979. Lawson and Rebecca Lisle in their work A Place to Stay/Concerning a Duality of Function, 1979. Nadin with work by Daniel Buren, 1979.
Louise Lawler I met Chris through the idea of labor as “work,” in a way. I’d gotten a job through some friends of mine who were architects, who were designing some kind of office cubicles, a cheap way of making them, and they needed someone to stretch canvas over Homasote. And they thought, “Well, Louise is an artist. She can stretch canvas.” But it was a huge job, so I hired Chris and Allan McCollum to help me. And we all had a lot of time to talk while we were working with each other. Rhys Chatham By 1975, SoHo had become invaded, rents went up, and a lot of us moved on to TriBeCa. This was before the age of the internet, so we all had to live very close if we wanted to see each other regularly. And people would come down to see us. It’s where normal people went to dream, I guess. Magoo’s Bar, at Sixth Avenue and Walker, was an artists’ hangout where lots of us liked to go. Everybody lived in the neighborhood, and there were performances all the time. You’d stick up a poster, and everybody would come. It was really an amazing time to be living in New York. We could all still afford it. Julie Barnsley I was 23 at the time, but I still felt like a child. Everyone had such an intense personal agenda. It was individuality, hedonism, madness and genius, all at their maximum expression, all trampling and rubbing shoulders on the same streets. Nadin When I’d first gotten to the city, I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know where to stay. I ended up at a YMCA on 36th Street that was like a welfare hotel. Broken arms, wheelchairs, people acting crazy, shooting up; it was really something. I didn’t really know what to do so I got on the subway, I think the next day, and ended up getting off at a place and, unbelievably,
ran into somebody else from Newcastle, an artist who was in the city teaching. He was living in a loft on 18th Street between Sixth and Seventh, and he told me he was leaving the next day, and so he moved out and I moved in. It was one of those incredible places with people from all over the world. A lot of French guys, a couple of Japanese dudes. At one time, there was a country-and-western band living there as well. You just had to build your own space, so I was living in the furnace room for a while with the heater. Scully lived two floors below, so I got to know him, and he knew how to use a floor sander. So he showed me how, showed me on a couple of jobs, and I put an advert for myself in The Village Voice and started sanding floors. Sean Scully We liked each other immediately. He was more interested in conceptual art then, and I was more interested in painting. But at that time, there were a lot of wonderful things going on that brought those two crowds together— even the conceptualists who were intent on killing painting forever. I don’t want to romanticize poverty too much, but the lack of money and relatively cheap real estate really did make a lot of things possible, like the dealer Julian Pretto’s gallery on Hudson Street, which showed Allan McCollum and Rosemarie Castoro and lots of painting shows. There were so many experimental spaces.
Lawrence Weiner You were out in the street a lot back then and you saw people serendipitously. Peter’s place was close to where I bought cigars. That stretch where he lived was sort of like the Fifth Avenue of illegal residential lofts at the time. We all had to work to make it, but you didn’t have to work all the time to earn enough; I was stretching canvases for the painter Terry Krümm.
Nadin Probably in spring of 1977, I was down on West Broadway and saw the shingle outside, only a few blocks from the World Trade Center, saying there were floors available. The landlord said, “Yeah, it’s gonna be $250 a month. Sign here.” Why not? So we sanded it and put in the plumbing, and I moved in. There was really nothing in that neighborhood at all. There was a Greek restaurant, the Delphi, near me on Reade Street, but that was it south of Canal. There weren’t even enough people to make it seedy. It was just empty.
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Scully I ended up at 110 Duane Street, in a big loft, and Peter was literally about a threeminute walk away. We used to meet in the middle a lot and chat.
Buren When Chris asked me to make the first work after theirs for the space on West Broadway, I was thinking, “Anyone who comes after me will probably want to use the walls, so I did not touch the walls except the places where usually no one touches, especially the baseboards and at the ceiling.” I called it Following and to Be Followed because that was the idea. It was as if I was making the frame, or a frame, for what was to follow, even though I had no idea at the time who that would be.
Buren Peter was helping Chris on a job of fixing up the loft that I had gotten in the city. I think we had all talked about this kind of work they were doing, hard work, and we talked about, well, why not take all of that as your work as an artist? And then all of the sudden you change the perspective. It’s not anymore just something to survive, but it’s something you can show. It was an abstract discussion, mostly. But when they opened the space at 84, I was extremely interested. I said, “Okay, you jumped! Let’s see what you can do.” Nadin Chris and I had gotten to be pretty good at spackling drywall, at taping. At that time, I was mainly writing, poetry, but I was also keeping sketchbooks, and I started to think about the essence of art being, of course, leaving the mark of your activity. That was what I was doing at night, with my hand, in the sketchbooks, making very elemental, almost primitive marks. But when you’re doing construction, the mark of the hand is meant to disappear entirely. If it’s a good job, the marks you
make are invisible, which was pretty interesting to me, because the activities began to feel the same. And it began to strike me how beautiful things like the sanding of a floor were—the texture of the pine and how it changes when you put down the finisher, how beautiful the spackling mud could be when you applied it to the sheetrock. When Chris and I started thinking of showing the manual labor as artwork, it was the idea of it being an exhibition and at the same time a kind of professional calling card: If you like what you see, you can hire us to work for you!
Lawler I think Chris thought a lot about the understanding of what goes into things, into work, what and who gets attention, trying to come at the value of what people do from a different point of view. And I thought of the loft as a way to get into that was a great idea. I went to all of the shows and performances, and I sometimes worked there, minding the place like a front desk person. Peter was never there when I was there taking care of it, but I remember looking through Jane’s peephole and seeing his kitchen, seeing the cockroaches run around. I remember a lot of weird specifics from being at Peter’s: It was always overheated, something about the radiators going nuts. And also remember that Peter was
a great wheat-paster, great at putting up the posters around the neighborhood for the shows. That was really important, to put those up around the neighborhood. All the information, all the history, was right there. The posters functioned in the same way the gallery did. Scully I was the third one, following Buren, and I pretty soon scoped out what I wanted to do. I wanted to get the most options out of following the wall. And so I followed it in a way that gave me a huge corner in the space. I was thinking about following and to be followed, as Buren phrased it, and so I wanted to do something that was a response to what he’d done. I was always very committed to painting, but my painting lends itself to architectural spaces very well, as Buren’s did in other ways. And it was wonderful to get to work that way because it was actually like New York. What was going on inside the space was merely echoing the way the city was put together, because in New York there is almost no dead space. It’s all used because Manhattan is finite. Everything is flat up against everything else. It makes life very different. It’s like a collection of collisions. Nadin Sean really took to heart the idea of the works not just responding, sitting with each other, but literally being layered on top of one another, and his with Buren’s was quite an interesting combo. Scully Buren and I take the same basic principle of using obsessive lines and do the absolute opposite with them, but somehow we still seem to end up in shows together. [Laughs] I used electric tape to make the stripes for that work, and I left the tape in, to give a nod to the proletariat, you might say. Peter and I actually painted it together because it was so enormous, on ladders next to each other. It was
“It was as if I was making the frame, or a frame, for what was to follow, even though I had no idea at the time who that would be.” —Daniel Buren
Clockwise from top: Chris D’Arcangelo and Peter Nadin in Louis Lawler’s loft, 1978. Peter Fend’s A Room Defined Not by Its Walls but by a Pump, 1979. Interior page of Nadin’s sketchbook, titled Brick Walls, 1977–79. Final announcement card for the 84 West Broadway experimental gallery.
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dark brown with the black stripes, and it looked like a big hulking geometric animal crouched in the corner. It was right on sheetrock, and so of course it was never meant to survive the installation. I still have a piece of it, a fragment that I saved when Peter moved out of the loft. Lawler At that time, there were other small spaces operating in the same spirit around that neighborhood, like Poppy Johnson’s $100 Gallery in her apartment on Greenwich, where I also sometimes worked. It was mostly on weekends, and everything really was $100. Carl Andre would make these little tiny Carl Andres, which were great. I’d say to Poppy, “You know, sometimes the crumbs are as good as the whole cake!” And we could afford them. Jane Reynolds I had met Chris when he was out here in Los Angeles, where I’m from. I’d had a show at the Claire Copley Gallery, and Daniel Buren was having a show there, and Chris was there with him. I’m a very shy person, so I went outside the gallery into a hallway at some point during the opening. It was very dark, a moonless night, and I thought I saw someone, like a specter, at the end of the hall. I had this weird intuition that I needed to know whoever it was. I didn’t normally have that kind of feeling, but I had it very powerfully that night. And it was Chris. I was living at that time in a building on Sunset and Gardner, where Larry Bell and David Lamelas were also living, and David was doing these works where he drew pictures of people he knew. At one point, I knew Chris was living briefly in Los Angeles, and so I told David that he needed to draw Chris. And I told him that when Chris came, to knock on my door because I’d finally gotten up the nerve to meet him. And that’s how we met. That’s what led to him asking me to come to New York to do the piece at Peter’s.
Nadin There was a strong feeling with what we were doing, and what some other people we knew were doing at that time, that the artists controlled the game. It wasn’t a top-down relationship; it was bottomup. There wasn’t a strange hierarchy of selection by outside forces, people who didn’t really know what we were doing. It was us, and we knew what we were doing and how to show it. Reynolds I was a young artist at a time when a woman’s only role, no matter what anyone believed, was to support men. I wasn’t one of those kinds of women. I believed in myself, and I wasn’t pleasant in that ingratiating way. And Chris liked me for that. It was like meeting my other self, in a way. I had no money, so I came to New York on a Greyhound bus and barely ate anything along the way. I went to see Peter and pretty much already knew what I wanted to do in the space. I remembered Chris telling me that when they did the work in Louise’s loft, they were putting in a ceiling, because the guy who lived above Louise complained about being able to hear her voice. And I thought about that, about separation between people or lack of it. And that’s how the peephole idea came along. I put one in so that you could see into Peter’s bedroom, and then another so that Peter could see out of his closet back into the space. I went down to Canal Street to a hardware store to get the peepholes, and Peter helped me drill them in. I’ve never had an easier installation in my life. I didn’t meet Sean, but I’m still very grateful to him for letting me do what I did to his painting. I was too shy to go to the opening, so I just got on a bus and went back to L.A. Before I left, a girlfriend came and took a couple of Polaroids of me and Chris. I still have one of those. I didn’t know it was last time I’d ever see him.
“Chris thought a lot about…what goes into things, into work, what and who gets attention, trying to come at the value of what people do from a different point of view. . . . I thought the loft as a way to get into that was a great idea.” —Louise Lawler
Nadin When Peter Fend decided to do the iron-lung piece, the photographer and filmmaker Robert Polidori got together with us to document the journey of the thing from Bellevue Hospital down to West Broadway. But the film has been lost; no one seems to have a copy of it. I was on my motorcycle that day. Fend had a truck with an open trailer, and so people could see this big iron lung as we took it down the FDR. It weighed a lot. We had to dismantle the whole fucking thing until it was just the cylinder and then goose it into the elevator standing up and then hump it up into the exhibition space and put the whole thing back together. Iron lungs in those days were really no longer in use, so I guess they had a lot of them sitting around. As a response to the space, it was really brilliant. You’d come in and hear it breathing the room, a remarkable idea. Later, of course, after everything had wound down, people would come into my loft and not understand. They’d wonder if I had a sick relative in the back. They’d see it sticking out of the corner.
Chatham It was during my second time as director of the Kitchen, I think, that I got a phone call from Peter asking me to play for a kind of piece in an art space. This was at the height of the punk explosion—Patti Smith and Blondie and Richard Hell and that whole crew had been playing at
CBGB, and everybody was really figuring out what it was. It got to the point that half the art world was hanging out at CBGB and the other half were in the bands. It was really exciting to me. It was when I started looking for my own voice. I’d worked as piano tuner for La Monte Young. The way La Monte had worked with Robert Morris, doing music around Morris environments in Yoko Ono’s loft, impressed me. It seemed like he was finetuning techniques he was already using, in response to Morris. I realized I had to do something similar to find my own voice. I’d never been to a rock concert in my life. Seeing the Ramones made me want to pick up a guitar for the first time. My work really became a merger of minimalist music with the rhythms and instrumentation of punk rock. We played “Guitar Trio” at Peter’s in what was essentially an open room, as I remember it. The place was pretty packed. And we played it loud. The overtones of the sound were permeating every single centimeter of the space.
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Nadin It was a Saturday morning, and it was raining. His girlfriend Cathy Weiner called me and told me to hurry over to his place on Elizabeth Street, that something terrible had happened. When I got there, there was just nothing to be done. We sat and waited for his father and for the police. It was unbelievable to me. It is to this day.
Nadin As I remember it, it felt like the air pressure in the room changed. It was like the sound was a physical thing filling the space, making the room feel completely solid. Chatham You listen to it, and it sounds like one chord, and it’s like, “Okay, extreme minimalism,” right? But really that’s not what’s going on because you’re hearing all these harmonics. The overall effect, nontechnically, is like choirs of angels singing in the frequencies of the low E string. And depending on where you were in the room, you were hearing different things. It worked out really well in Peter’s space because it was a live space. The overtones shimmered. For me and Nina and Glenn, it was like a party. We played two long sets, if I remember, maybe 40 minutes each.
Buren For Chris, who believed that there was no way to separate political power from power in the art world, 84 West Broadway was the perfect kind of space. He was extremely alert, extremely aware of everything. Certainly radical, I mean probably too radical. When he died, I was not only very sad, but very upset. He never seemed like the kind of person who would take his own life. We even talked about people who took their own lives, and he said it was terrible because it’s too selfish toward the people who are close to you and who remain. So all of that was in complete contradiction to what he did.
Reynolds Chris was so young, but he always said he felt like an old soul, a very ancient man. And he had so much affection for Peter. It was like he was Peter’s doting grandfather sometimes. Not like an authority figure to him or anything, but just like an indulgent grandfather. He was very different from other people, especially in the art world— he truly cared about other people. And he was very, very important to me. It took several months to get over a level of grief that was so intense it felt like I was sick. When I was in New York, I couldn’t walk down Elizabeth Street, past where he’d lived, for very a long time.
Lawler After Chris died, the piece that Dan and Lawrence and Peter and myself did was a piece in which Lawrence stenciled and painted our four names on the floor of the
space. We photographed that, and the photograph was added to the poster, and that poster was wheat-pasted around, so that it was back out on the street again. It was something that made sense to us after Chris was gone, to show the work in the space along with the space’s history. Weiner I made the stencils at my place on Bleecker Street and took them over. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of that last piece, I guess, being a marker, a memorial for the end of it all. The space was really important. And it was so sad that it ended that way, that Chris took his life. Nadin After Chris’s death, the space stopped functioning as the gallery we had started, but exhibitions continued there, in different ways, in my studio, off and on until I had to leave it in the mid-’90s. Fend did a piece in which he remapped the world. Julie Barnsley did a piece with dance. Kim Gordon was around, and Jenny Holzer and I did work together in the space. With the exception of Fend’s iron lung, which eventually went back to the hospital, the rest of the work from 1979 stayed in the space until I left it, about 1993 or 1994, when the landlord kicked me out. Nothing stayed pristine. I mean, I was living there and working there, and the cat was scratching things. But when I had to leave, I saved bits of what I could, pieces of Buren’s work and Jane’s peephole in Sean’s painting, things I tore out before the place was gutted and took along with all my paintings. That’s what the whole space really was about for me— about how you could make art with your friends, live with it, think about it more as a way of living and not a career, how you could have it all be part of your life.
Asking for a Deeper Look
Garrett Bradley in New Orleans, April 2019.
The poetic vérité of filmmaker Garrett Bradley
by Morgan Jerkins Photography by blvxmth
“This idea of black cinema being a discrete movement is a fallacy. In fact, it is a simultaneous yet invisible thread that runs parallel to ‘American cinema.’” This year’s Whitney Biennial, which opened in May and continues through September 22, set out as one of the overarching themes for its 75 chosen participants “the mining of history in order to reimagine the present or future.” Garrett Bradley, an emerging New Orleans–based filmmaker whose penetrating work has made her one of the most anticipated entrants of the show, not only took the direction to heart but took it directly into the lives of mother and daughter pairs from interracial families who answered an ad she placed on Craigslist. For her work in the biennial, AKA, she asked the pairs questions about how they conceived of the concept of race, how their feelings about the world’s perception of their family affected their
Two stills from Bradley's AKA, 2019.
relationship, and how they envisioned that relationship being embodied in film— answers to which surprised her in their complexity and molded her scene-making: “My mother and I could face back to back, holding each other, because this is what I’ve always wanted. And I know if I saw that image, it would mean something to me to put it up on the wall.” Bradley’s deep interests in the interrelated mechanisms of race and cinema have, in a sense, shaped her work from the beginning. Her previous film, America—which premiered at Sundance this year and was praised by The Guardian’s Simran Hans as “the most original film I saw all festival”—intersperses, in dreamlike fashion, scenes and stills from the never-completed 1913 silent film Lime Kiln Club Field Day. In 2014 the Museum of Modern Art’s To Save and Project film festival showcased a restored version of the film, reconstructed from hours of footage. Lime Kiln Club Field Day is important because it’s the earliest surviving film featuring an all-African-American cast, and it stars pioneering vaudeville performer Bert Williams, one of the most famous black actors of his day. The film is striking not only because of its survival story, but also because of its distinct depiction of beauty and joy in black life, a rarity in cinema of this era. Since the vast majority of feature films from the silent era have been lost to time (70 percent, according to a Library of Congress study), it’s likely that many more such movies were made and found an audience in their day. Lime Kiln Club Field Day struck Bradley as utterly fascinating, and inspired the 33-year-old filmmaker to imagine this invisible period in black
cinema. Shot on 35mm film, America is made up of a series of 12 silent, blackand-white shorts meant to represent moments from these missing films. The scenes are seemingly unrelated—a group of boys grab at a white sheet that floats above them, a pair of blacksmiths pound anvils with hammers, a man gets baptized in a church, a couple skate in a roller rink—but the way they transition from one to the next suggests continuous movement. “This idea of black cinema being a discrete movement is a fallacy,” Bradley says. “In fact, it is a simultaneous yet invisible thread that runs parallel to ‘American cinema.’” Bradley grew up a downtown Manhattan kid with artist parents, both abstract painters. They split when she was two years old, and visits with her father were sporadic when she was young. Her questions around her dad’s absence inspired her first film project. Made with a camcorder when she was 16, the film is her attempt to understand her mother and father as individuals, not just parents. It also showed her that she liked to observe reality from behind a camera, and that filmmaking was perhaps something she should keep doing. After graduating from Smith College, where she studied religion while also
Still from Garrett Bradley's Alone, 2017.
taking some filmmaking classes at nearby Hampshire College, Bradley attended UCLA Film School. There she worked alongside Billy Woodberry, who was part of a wave of filmmakers out of UCLA starting in the late ’60s, dubbed the L.A. Rebellion. Toward the end of the program, however, she became restless. “I imagine this is what happens with most Masters programs,” she says. “You start to resist it and you start to find yourself. You’ve mastered tools in a certain kind of way that you’re finally able to see yourself in them, whether that fits in with what you’re being taught or not.” Though she found mentors and made connections, she didn’t have many friends who had film equipment and were able to work with her on weekends. This impasse turned out to be an opportunity, however, propelling her to leave her familiar environment in search of inspiration. She found it, of all places, on Greyhound bus trips between New York City and New Orleans. Over the course of a year, she recorded a series of interviews with fellow passengers around her age about their lives and aspirations. Bits of those conversations were adapted into the screenplay of her first feature-length film, 2014’s Below Dreams. Shot vérité style, the film follows three people in their twenties in New
“What speaks to me first and foremost: What is it that I can offer in this present moment, whether it’s a scenario, a space, a community, a dynamic between two individuals. What about it is asking for a deeper look?” Orleans—a single mother with four young children, a former felon trying to get a job, and a man visiting from New York—as they negotiate their individual struggles, which range from post-college angst to enduring the humiliations of poverty. In one scene, the camera follows behind the mother as she walks with her kids in search of a place to eat. We see in her mix of exhaustion and loss of patience and worry exactly how difficult that task is. The film allows such naturalistic details to unfold at the pace of real life, which elicits empathy from the viewer. “I’m very sensitive to inequality and what isn’t fair,” says Bradley. “I’m interested in taking that information and personalizing it on a human level. Anyone who’s viewing it can connect with that human being, and all of these other elements—poverty, trauma—may be in the frame, but they’re not overt.” While working on Below Dreams, Bradley moved to New Orleans and took a few side gigs—a hearse driver for a funeral home and a sales position at a florist and an American Apparel store. These experiences, she says, allowed her to enter the lives of strangers in intimate ways, but also to think about her position in the city as an artist transplant. “What does it mean to move to a place like New Orleans where the minimum wage is so low?” she recalls thinking. “How do you find your own positioning where you’re contributing? You’re contributing to an economy and you’re contributing to a culture as well. Also, you’re trying to make your work or sell your work; it presents a new set of challenges.” 64
Now a full New Orleanian, Bradley has found a collective of artists across different mediums with whom she has fellowship. When not working on a project at her studio, she teaches digital filmmaking at Loyola University and at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center. She has even taken part in the city’s thriving film business, directing a 2017 episode of Queen Sugar, Ava DuVernay’s TV series set in south Louisiana. For her second feature-length film, 2015’s Cover Me, the Crescent City is again featured prominently. Developed with artist Tameka Norris, who plays the lead, the film is more experimental in structure than Below Dreams, but has a similar, strong sense of place. Part of this can be attributed to the documentary feel of both films—the actors are mostly nonprofessionals and the production value is decidedly not Hollywood slick. It’s not surprising, then, that Bradley easily adjusted to the documentaryshort form for her next series of projects. 2016’s Like and 2018’s The Earth Is Humming were both produced by Field of Vision, the online visual journalism platform co-founded by Laura Poitras. Broadly, you could say that both works explore how humanity engages with larger forces. In Like, Bradley looks at how digital workers (click-farm workers who generate Facebook likes) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, engage with the new economy. In The Earth Is Humming, she looks at how residents of Tokyo, who live in one of the most active earthquake zones on the planet, prepare for disaster. 65 stills from Bradley's America, 2019. Bottom right: Still from the 1913 film Lime Kiln Club Field Day, included in America. Seven
“There’s an obligation to teach people. I don’t want to just preach to the choir. How can all women connect with this idea of loneliness?” Though the subject matter of these films bears little resemblance to her earlier narrative work, Bradley’s poetic visual language is still recognizable—her shot compositions, her use of long shots, extended takes and haunting music. She doesn’t allow genre categorization to cloud her approach to her work. “It’s a labeling system,” she says. “It lets the public and distributors have a sense of where they want to place your work. As the person making the work, I could care less about that. What speaks to me first and foremost: What is it that I can offer in this present moment, whether it’s a scenario, a space, a community, a dynamic between two individuals. What about it is asking for a deeper look? What about its contrast or juxtaposition can illuminate a third identity or a third reality or a new layer of truth?” Between the Field of Vision projects, Bradley returned to New Orleans to make Alone, an affecting work that raised her profile considerably: the 13-minute blackand-white documentary won Sundance’s Short Film Jury Award in nonfiction in 2017 and was released by the New York Times’ Op-Docs series. The film tells the story of Aloné Watts, a young woman who is separated from her fiancé, Desmond, while he’s in prison awaiting trial. Bradley explores the impact of Desmond’s incarceration on Aloné with an intimate look at her loneliness and longing. On another level, the film demonstrates the inhumanity of this country’s criminal justice system. In one scene, shot as though from Aloné’s perspective, we see Desmond— in prison garb and shackles—behind a chain-link gate as he steps off the bus where inmates wait for their courthouse hearing and waves to Aloné/the camera.
66 stills from Bradley's 66 Below Dreams, 2014. All film stills: Courtesy Garrett Bradley. Eight
In a voiceover, Aloné says that she stands outside that gate every time there’s a hearing just to wave to Desmond when he exits the bus. It’s a heartbreaking scene. As with Below Dreams, Bradley creates ways for the viewer to emotionally connect to the subject to give them a certain level of understanding. “There’s an obligation to teach people,” says Bradley. “I don’t want to just preach to the choir. How can all women connect with this idea of loneliness? How can all women think about what it means to not be able to be with the person that you want to be with?” At the time of publication, Bradley was still at work on AKA, a 10-minute film that is the first of an eventual trilogy. The subject of AKA is one close to her—how race factors into nuanced relationships between mothers and daughters who self-identify as being an interracial family—and, in the making of it, she continues to explore ways to get at deeper truths. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how to illustrate those internal spaces and external spaces in my work,” she says. “Cover Me was the first time I was really trying to work through any inner dialogue in a public discourse. I’m tackling that again right now. I’m working with a lot of fantasy elements. I’m working with these split diopters, which is sort of like putting a half of a magnifying glass on your lens. It allows for two different people to be in relatively distant space from one another on the same plane, and the space is compacted. It felt like a perfect analogy for the relationships between mothers and daughters. They’re in the same place, but the space looks abstracted and strange. They’re distant and very close at the same time.”
All artworks: Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Hokusao, 2015; gouache, crayon, watercolor pencil on vintage Chinese prints. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
Jakub Julian Ziolkowski ravels the Chinese landscape
Curious Items From Home and Abroad Anj Smith and Fornasetti: A wunderkammer collaboration
At least since Duchamp affixed a mustache to the Mona Lisa, artists have reveled in retooling the Western canon. Some have paid homage to the Old Masters; others have taken Oedipal jabs (“Why reject the old if one can modernize it with a few strokes of the brush?” Asger Jorn asked impishly in his essay “Detourned Painting” in 1959); others still have used the past to skewer the present day. But Western appropriationists have rarely turned to Asian masterpieces as their raw material. In this series of recent works, Jakub Julian Ziolkowski has done so with complicated affection and subversive wit. Using gouache and watercolor, the Polish artist has altered reproductions of 20 Chinese masterpieces, injecting them with puckish humor and nightmarish menace to create unearthly amalgams of his own. With obvious esteem for the older works, he has struck an unlikely harmony between their Zen tranquility and his often unsettling elaborations. Songbirds pluck eyeballs from slender branches. A mushroom cloud billows behind a flared wooden roof. A bewildered-looking human skull, poised atop a sideways cliff, stares out as if to ask, “What the hell is happening here?” Ziolkowski discovered the reproductions in a secondhand bookstore in Shanghai during a long trip through Asia. “I was very open to all new ideas, materials, anything that could break my working routine,” he says, speaking from his studio in Krakow. “When I saw these prints, I knew I was going to remake them into something different.” He guesses they may have been published in the 1970s or ’80s but isn’t entirely sure. And it doesn’t
particularly matter, in the end, because the power of the final works lies in their ability to evade easy comprehension—when you think you might have a firm grip on their position in time and space, a handle on their meaning or message, they wriggle away. The series is more restrained than the riotous oil paintings for which Ziolkowski has become known: biomorphic tangles of hairy limbs, squirting nipples, blood, tongues, guts, stars, cosmic symbols and intergalactic portals that draw upon Tibetan mandalas and heavy metal in equal measure. Ziolkowski’s bug-eyed figures sporting underbites and stubble have earned comparisons to Philip Guston’s late-figurative ogres, and his creatures eating and ejecting one another with adolescent abandon summon phantasmagoria from Hieronymus Bosch to George Romero. Among his contemporaries, Ziolkowski’s penchant for mingling the ridiculous, raunchy, cartoonish and profound recalls the work of Dana Schutz, Peter Saul and R. Crumb, though his work stakes out its own strange cosmic ethos. His scenes convey an idiosyncratic spirituality, one that seems able to accommodate bodies and baser instincts as well as a capacity for transcendence. His attraction to traditional Chinese ink paintings lies in their poetic qualities: “Silky skies, inner silence, lots of air and space, fuzzy brush strokes.” Industry, he feels, has all but consumed this world and its romantic ideals, particularly its reverence for natural beauty. “That’s why I wanted to ‘update’ old prints,” he says, listing various affronts to the landscape: “Trees are
shaven from mountains. Dust, dirt, coal smoke, mud, air pollution, poisoned groundwater, chemical waste, economic growth, factories, traffic, polluted food, limited living space.” Ziolkowski’s elaborations are barely detectable in some works. The nuclear power plant in one otherwise serene landscape is painted in such a way that it looks as though it was always there, puffing away. Its plumes of smog gently echo the silhouettes of the nearby mountains. The intrusion is all the more sinister because of its subtlety; an expression, perhaps, of our tendency to bemoan climate change and oceans of plastic while continuing to enjoy all of the modern conveniences poisoning the Earth. Other additions, such as the four naked women lashed to a wooden roadside rack in a different image, are brutally conspicuous. Two of the women are bound face down, their vulnerable pink bodies lashed with crimson licks of paint. One, facing outward, is screaming in pain—or perhaps howling a curse at her aggressor, a nobleman on horseback trailing a procession of servants and porters. “It’s about lawlessness and power,” says Ziolkowski. “About the rich and the poor. About nature and culture. About human cruelty and humiliation.” The man, he explains, is a high-ranking official who has whipped four women from the village. “His horse is probably worth more than the life of a peasant.” Ziolkowski is able to narrate his images after the fact, but painting them is primarily an unconscious process. “When I work, most of the time I do not understand what
I am doing and what my hands are doing, and what my mind is trying to communicate,” he says. “When you want to think too much and control the process, you unplug yourself from the source.” His studio serves as a bunker, “a silent operating theater for experimental brain surgery,” in which buried images can safely bubble to the surface. The Belgian painter James Ensor, Buddhist images from India, African masks and Native American art are among the many visual influences that inform his work, and Ziolkowski listens to music with the same freewheeling curiosity. “I might start a new day with Fucked Up [the Canadian hardcore band] and finish by drumming in darkness on my shaman’s drum for my wife, Hyon Gyon,” he says. Ziolkowski’s compositions hum with the rhythms—alternately harsh and hypnotic—formed by his catholic tastes. Monsters also make regular appearances in Ziolkowski’s work, and in one particularly enigmatic frame from this series, a sinuous nine-breasted dragon entwines herself with a long-stemmed lotus pod spurting milk or semen. Such creatures, and the series as a whole, with its painted mutations, forces our gaze back upon our own hybrid nature. We are all chimeras composed of parts that are grafted on, covered up, sutured and transformed, unwieldy pastiches of current and former selves. And we, like the landscapes we inhabit, are delicate. “Even as a little boy, I knew that the human body is flesh and bones and we are all extremely lucky to live one more day,” says Ziolkowski. “Human life is fragile like a porcelain cup.” —Zoë Lescaze
by Mayer Rus
Anj Smith at her studio in London, March 2019. Photo: Alex Delfanne. All trumeu images: The Architecture: Secrets of Time and Space. Courtesy Fornasetti.
From top: Work on the trumeau at Fornasetti Atelier, Milan. Anj Smith and Barnaba Fornasetti.
Italian maestros Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti cultivated one of the most fertile and intriguing design collaborations of the 20th century. A prolific architect, industrial designer, magazine editor and academic, Ponti created an adventurous array of chairs, tables, desks, cabinets and objets de vertu that unapologetically flouted the modernist imperative for dry functionality and reductivism. Fornasetti, in turn, embellished those designs with chimerical patterns ranging from neoclassical architecture to exotic naturalia, amplifying the allure of Ponti’s elegantly proportioned forms. The duo’s Architettura trumeau—a cabinet with two doors and a drop-down writing surface, decorated in a trompe l’oeil pattern of neoclassical facades, arcades and vaults— is perhaps the most famous fruit of the dialogue they began roughly 80 years ago. In a dramatic reimagining of this quintessentially Italian partnership, British artist Anj Smith recently added her voice to the dialogue, transforming a milestone duet into an unlikely trio. Working with Barnaba Fornasetti, Piero’s son and artistic heir, Smith has a conjured a wonderland concealed within a wonderland, adorning the interior of the cabinet with an abstracted meditation on time and space, replete with her signature imagery of a curiously alluring post-catastrophic landscape. For Smith, the project—suggested by Hauser & Wirth director Stefano Rabolli Pansera, a friend of Barnaba Fornasetti— presented an opportunity to engage with a designer she has long admired. In a 2014 exhibition curated by the fashion photo grapher Nick Knight at his SHOWstudio space in London, Fornasetti’s Procuratie e Scimmie wallpaper—classical arcade arches inhabited by scampering monkeys—made an appearance alongside Mughal miniature paintings and glittering scarabs in a wunderkammer-like presentation of Smith’s work, accented with objects and artifacts that have inspired her. Two years later, Smith incorporated a torn fragment of the same paper, this time in a vivid neon colorway, in her painting S.O.S. (2016–17). When the chance arose to collaborate with Fornasetti directly, Smith immediately seized on the trumeau as the object of her desire. “I took the Architettura print as an entrance point,” she says. “Because it was a collaboration, I wanted to work on something iconic, so that our two visual languages were clearly distinct. I’ve always loved the original 1951 Gio Ponti trumeau that featured Architettura.”
The furniture was intended from the start to be displayed in the context of a 2019 exhibition, “The Mountain of the Muse,” at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan, part of an ongoing series in which contemporary artists interpret and react to the museum’s collections, strong in Northern Italian and Flemish painting, along with ceramics and furnishings. “There are three aspects of the exhibition: my work, the Fornasetti collaboration, and my work in the context of the Poldi Pezzoli,” Smith says. “Since the Fornasetti print is an amalgamation of Milanese architectural references, it all fit together seamlessly.” For Barnaba Fornasetti, the prospect of working with a painter felt like a natural extension of the studio’s legacy. “The atelier’s identity is based on cross-pollination and meetings,” he said. “Its visual universe is simply a metaphorical reworking, a creative reorganization of the most diverse iconographic sources, and its artistic expression is a mix of disciplines.” The artist and her collaborator say that, despite various superficial affinities between their visual languages, the through-line of their work ended up being more conceptual. “For me, the real connection is in the psychology,” Smith says. “Piero appears to have found inspiration in everything he looked at—rock formations, the animal kingdom, the history of art—filtering everything through his subversive humor and the lens of his single-minded vision.” Fornasetti says that Smith and the atelier seem to share a kind of free-floating, time-traveling psyche: “Even though Anj’s style is very different, the figures that inhabit her landscapes have something in common with the elements of my father’s visual universe. Her dreamlike imagery, like Fornasetti’s, is able to combine different concepts—popular culture, the archaic, modern fashion—and treat them as relics from far-off lands.” The intervention (which also includes plates and vases) manages to provide a visceral punch for the work of a designer whose singular magic and creative brilliance have been blunted somewhat over the years by familiarity. Indeed, Barnaba himself seems to appreciate the value of such an unusual partnership: “Anj’s work pays tribute to my father and recognizes him as an example of the past that she could measure herself against. Her perspective illuminated new meanings of our complex identity, making the most original aspects of the Fornasetti ethos shine.”
The Man From Chorley
by Bob Nickas Photography by Oresti Tsonopoulos
With Matthew Higgs in the
As with many formative pursuits, collecting often begins in childhood. Infinitely curious in ways that may naturally diminish with age or, conversely, become persistent, children possess an inquisitiveness that’s amplified as they learn about the world, and potentially about themselves, by way of objects. Everyday objects, whether talismanic or mundane, may be imbued with otherwise unseen magic by those who assemble them. These private collectors build a personal world, moving from inquisitive to acquisitive as time, space and funding will allow—a child’s allowance goes just so far and only shells on the beach are free. In kindergarten there’s show and tell: You go before the class when called, briefly becoming the teacher, presenting your object, maybe a book, speaking about it and drawing others into your world. In this public revealing of private interests, with things from home, there’s also an acknowledgment, if one fully realized only later in life, that objects are encoded with information, that this information should be made available, that more may be discovered in the exchange, and that it’s fun. Show and tell—young person as juvenile aesthete— is an activity much more like that of a curator than of a private collector. A curator brings things in from outside, to present and discuss them in public, engaging with viewers who may never have seen the objects—in the process hoping for, it cannot go unmentioned, a wow. The payoff, not in any way monetized, is social and cerebral, and it ripples out in ways large and small, in ways we can’t even imagine at the initial point of contact. A personal world can connect up to the whole universe. Matthew Higgs, the curator, artist and publisher, has built a reverent following in the art world over the past 15 years as the director of the venerable New York nonprofit White Columns, where he has championed all manner of artists seen as decidedly on the margins of contemporary art—if they’ve been seen at all. He is less known, except maybe by those who follow his teeming Instagram account, as an inveterate collector, primarily of records, which he has pursued from an early age. His first purchase, in fact, in 1973, was the 1972 hit single by Alice Cooper, one of the catchiest anti-authoritarian anthems of all time, the hard-rocking “School’s Out.” Higgs was all of nine years old. Though he didn’t yet know it, his nascent career in show and
There’s a widely reproduced photo of Joy Division rehearsing in 1979, and a small figure can be seen indistinctly in the background. That’s a teenage Matthew Higgs. Above: Matthew Higgs with his record collection in his Chelsea apartment. Opposite: Record sleeve for A Factory Sample, 1979 (Factory Records), designed by Peter Saville.
tell, his own school, had just convened, and at bratty volume. The single was soon followed by the Alice Cooper album Billion Dollar Babies, released in 1973, which went to number one in the U.K. The title of one of that record’s tracks, “Generation Landslide,” would soon prove prophetic. Like other kids in Britain back then, Higgs faithfully tuned in to the weekly program Top of the Pops, which delivered a steady stream of the newest and biggest bands of the day, the exciting music then, as Higgs recalls, being glam. In 1973 and ’74 alone, he would have seen David Bowie, Roxy Music, Slade, Sparks, the Sweet and T. Rex alongside other performers who would come to figure prominently in the development of his musical mind. And that generation landslide? Within only a few years, everything would shift seismically in Britain. By 1977, when Higgs was 13, punk had arrived, and Top of the Pops would feature the Adverts, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Generation X, the Jam, the Saints, the Sex Pistols and X-Ray Spex. It was, to borrow the title of the first Buzzcocks album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, an album that Higgs identifies as “the first real record I bought forming my own taste.” He went to see Buzzcocks play live with, as he recalls, a still-thrillingly raw Subway Sect as the opener, and he got to see Devo the same year, 1978, on an early U.K. tour, at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall (where the city’s punk scene had been inaugurated just two years prior). Devo’s theory of “devolution”—or “de-evolution,” the idea that the species is not progressing but gradually regressing—along with the punk upheaval and its demystification of rock’s image, aided in Higgs’ own evolution, leading, without doubt, to where we find him today, presiding over a singular collection of some 8,000 records spanning dozens of genres, some unidentifiable, across six decades. Raised about 20 miles outside Manchester, in Chorley, a former cotton-mill town in Lancashire (there’s a single track on a classic 1979 Earcom compilation by a mystery band called From Chorley; they were most likely from nearby
Preston), Higgs quickly became aware that what was happening at the time came not primarily from London but from the North of England. Bands, labels and records appeared seemingly overnight, and zines and various publications written by fans, rather than by established music journalists, were everywhere, with memorable titles like Chainsaw, Sniffin’ Glue and Toxic Grafity. At the tail end of the ’70s, independent labels such as Fast Product, Zoo, New Hormones, Small Wonder, Rough Trade and Factory were releasing singles and full albums by hitherto unrecorded bands and musicians. You could read all about them, as Higgs and other fans eagerly did, every week in Sounds and New Musical Express. (Billy Childish, an insanely prolific creator in both recording and art studios, would, in 1993, pen his non-chart-topping garage-punk rant “(We Hate the Fuckin’) N.M.E.” Higgs began to trust certain labels and to buy whatever was on them. Often situated in and around where he lived, the labels gave him the sense, he says, that “locality was important,” as was the scene’s do-it-yourself aesthetic. Anyone with a strong visual orientation, as Higgs had, responded viscerally to the artwork associated with these records. Even today, more than 40 years on, the indelible Dada/punk collage created by Linder Sterling for the Buzzcocks single “Orgasm Addict” never fails to startle. Not only did records come in these picture sleeves, but one often found stickers, postcards and posters tucked inside. For Higgs, this initiated a lifelong love of ephemera, fueled by the potentiality of something extra, something further articulating the sonic information while extending the notion of generosity. These bands and the people putting out the records (often one in the same) were saying, in effect: We’ve done this ourselves. So can you. The idea of participation was both local and democratic. No one needed special permission. Anything was possible. And possibility was infinite. In a song from the legendary post-punk band the Fall, “Just Step S’ways,” Mark E. Smith mocks those who have used up their “allowance of experiences.” Higgs would rightly insist that there is no such thing. And yet culture doesn’t continuously reverberate in waves to which we can respond, or respond with the same fervor. The tide goes in and out, and inevitably we follow paths elsewhere. As punk began to wane in the ’80s, Higgs’ interest shifted to art, unsurprisingly, since he found himself then in art school, at Newcastle Polytechnic. There, from 1984 to 1987, he met and became close friends with the future art dealer Gavin Brown, and he co-founded a weekly nightclub called Fever, spinning a range of American ’70s funk, go-go, early house and other dance music. Dance music has been an abiding passion, and Higgs has become a familiar presence behind the turntable over the years at
These bands and the people putting out the records (often one in the same) were saying, in effect: We’ve done this ourselves. So can you.
various art-world events and after-parties. He once bought, on the spot, 200 ’80s Chicago house music 12-inch singles, including, as he recalls, many extraordinary rarities, from the parking-lot flea market on West 25th in Chelsea. Another time, on a Brooklyn street, he came across a guy selling records from his front stoop and walked away with almost 100 disco 12-inches, for just $1 or $2 each. Whenever his buying of records declines, Higgs’ search for art books and catalogues seems to rise. His book collecting, it turns out, was also precocious. In 1981, when he would have been 16, in a Chorley market stall, amid the fruit-and-vegetable sellers and jumbled piles of used clothes, something caught his eye: a Marcel Broodthaers catalogue from his posthumous 1980 Tate Gallery retrospective. Though Higgs had absolutely no idea who the artist was, the book intrigued him. As he had trusted record labels, he began to pick up other Tate catalogues, quickly acquiring those from a remarkable era of shows: Broodthaers, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni. In these artists’ humor, he grasped that art could be approachable, and he instinctively drew a parallel back to punk’s irreverence and accessibility. As a teenager, he had also begun to read and collect now-rare copies of the avantgarde culture magazines ZG and Performance, with covers featuring performers like Laurie Anderson, who had a crossover hit with “O Superman” in 1981, and artist-writer Brion Gysin, inventor of the Dreamachine. (In a recent Instagram post, Higgs noted: “At this time, I had never visited a gallery, so these two magazines provided me with an introduction to worlds that I would otherwise have had no knowledge of or access to. And all for 60p!”) In 1978, when he was 14, Higgs started his own music zine, Photophobia, which he copied and assembled himself and for which he wrote almost everything, cover to cover. Imprint 93, a mail-art project he initiated many years later, in 1993, published art editions that were conceived initially as being small enough to fit inside an envelope, sent anonymously to a well-compiled mailing list. The impulse no doubt arose from the communal spirit he had sensed early on in his collecting of publications and ephemera, as well as from the DIY ethic inherent to punk. Too bad for those who tossed the unsolicited envelopes that arrived in the mail, as among the artists invited to participate were many who went on to great acclaim: Fiona Banner, Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili, Elizabeth Peyton and Stephen Willats. The modest photocopied zines that White Columns has produced during his tenure, known simply and cheekily as the The W.C., derive from this same self-publishing impulse. And the Sound of White Columns (TSoWC) series of vinyl records—featuring music and text-based work by artists and musicians such as B. Wurtz, Emily Sundblad, Christopher Knowles, Kim Gordon, Malcolm Mooney (the original singer from the influential German band
Clockwise from top left: Sleeve for Joseph Beuys’ record “Sonne Statt Reagan,” 1982. Sleeve for the Sounds of White Columns’ “Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire,” 2010, designed by Peter Doig. Higgs’ Xerox-printed fanzine Photophobia, Issue No. 3, 1980.
Higgs insists of the wall of sound and books behind him: “It’s not a library. It’s not an archive. It’s accumulated stuff.”
Clockwise from top: ZG, Issue No. 1, 1981, London. Poster designed by Higgs for a 1981 New Order/PR5 concert at the Tatton Community Centre in Chorley. Back cover of Photophobia, Issue No. 3, 1980.
Can) and Richard Hell/Robert Quine (with cover artwork by Christopher Wool)—springs directly from Higgs’ record collecting. Having foraged for labels when he was younger, he now presides over one of his own, yet another way he has found to participate directly in whatever he has obsessed over. There’s a widely reproduced photo of Joy Division rehearsing in 1979, and a small figure can be seen indistinctly in the background. That’s a teenage Matthew Higgs who, fan that he was, had made his way to Manchester and, knowing where the band rehearsed, knocked on the door of their practice space. Higgs insists he never would have gone to art school and become a curator if it had not been for such formative adventures. Almost 40 years later he would go on to organize, along with Jon Savage and Johan Kugelberg, “True Faith,” an exhibition about the legacy and influence of Joy Division and New Order for the Manchester Art Gallery. When asked if there’s any record he regrets parting with, he doesn’t think twice: “A fully signed copy of Joy Division’s An Ideal for Living." It was 1983 and he needed the money. When asked about his thousands of records—most of them lining one well-organized wall in the Chelsea apartment that he shares with his wife, the artist Anne Collier, plus overflow in storage, a few hundred records still at his mother’s home in England, he says matter-of-factly: “I’m not attached to them.” Asked if he has to have everything, he says: “I’m not a completist.” He does sell from time to time. You may have seen him this year at the WFMU Record Fair, where in the past he’s been an avid buyer. Sometimes, you’ll find him digging through bins in the back of an East Village shop, with a selection of 12-inch singles that can be dodgy at best—A Flock of Seagulls, anyone?—from which he will occasionally unearth a real gem. When told that he had once discovered a rare Joseph Beuys 12-inch, “Sonne Statt Reagan” (“Sun Instead of Reagan”), at a bargain price, Collier remarked, nonplussed: “Matthew’s the truffle pig of record collectors.” Unlike those condescending, know-it-all vinyl hunters who suck the air, and the fun, out of this pursuit, there’s nothing snooty about Higgs. He freely and enthusiastically shares what he knows. His Instagram account is not a forum for bragging. The artist Davina Semo follows it regularly, as do many others, because, as she says, “I learn so much about music and get a lot of ideas for books to order. It’s a real education just to follow his posts.” His collecting, in other words, has never been only for himself, and it continues to relate to the sort of fandom that got him started: buying records as a kid and taking them over to a friend’s house to play, to thrill to. A record, especially a seven-inch single—the artist and musician Jutta Koether has called it “the perfect fetish object”— is, like a book, portable. While both have information within them, a record, for the young in
particular, is magical: music and the human voice emanate from its grooves. These many years later, when asked what it has all meant for him, Higgs insists of the wall of sound and books behind him: “It’s not a library. It’s not an archive. It’s accumulated stuff.” Despite the fact that he no longer makes dedicated rounds to all the shops in the city— Academy on West 18th Street, Academy and A-1 in the East Village and 2 Bridges in Chinatown (“very intelligently focused,” in his estimation) are among the exceptions—he still believes in the great pleasures of record hunting: “When you walk in, there’s a lot of possibility and surprise.” Acknowledging what he calls “the infiniteness of it,” he especially likes that you can’t know everything, and admits, “It’s almost like a full-time job keeping up with music.” There’s always more to discover. For someone who has such a deep knowledge of dance music and has been buying a lot of reggae in the past five years, it’s a little surprising to see what he’s pursued lately, which is what he missed the first time around: classic rock. He mentions Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Harking back to the punk era’s take-no-prisoners/ no-more-heroes attitude, he says: “We were almost taught to hate that record.” He adds that he had never listened to a Beatles album until a year or so ago. “I never had them, my friends never had them.” And so, for him, The White Album was a complete revelation. An obvious question brings us full circle: What, in the end, will you do with all this stuff? With a small laugh he says: “I think I’ll eventually get rid of it all. Sell things, gift them to friends.” He has lived in England, San Francisco and New York, and he travels widely, acquiring records wherever he’s lived and everywhere he goes. He describes the collection as “a weird map of my movement through space and time.” Astonishingly, given the many decades and thousands of discoveries along the way, he claims to “pretty much remember where I bought everything.” You have no reason to believe otherwise. “Remembering,” Higgs says, “is inherent to collecting.”
There Was Nothing Else Like It
Düstere Bewegungen (stilleben) (Gloomy Movements [still life]), 1928, gouache over watercolor on paper. All artworks: © Angela Thomas Schmid, © 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich. Courtesy Max Bill Georges Vantongerloo Foundation and Hauser & Wirth.
MAX BILL and the DESSAU BAUHAUS: A design pioneer’s origins in painting 94
“I have caught the painting disease.” —Max Bill to his teacher László Moholy-Nagy, Dessau Bauhaus, 1927
On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, Ursula follows Max Bill—one of the most influential designers of the 20th century and a personification of the Bauhausian dream of erasing the boundaries between fine and applied arts—back to his student days (1927–29) and his still little-known work as a fledgling painter, in thrall to his teachers Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers. Bill, who in his teens had studied silversmithing in Zurich but was expelled from the School of Applied Arts for being too forthright with his opinions, was accepted for the summer 1927 semester at the Bauhaus in Dessau, founded there only two years earlier after political pressures forced the closing of its original Weimar home. “I can still remember that very morning, just before I arrived at the railway station in Dessau, the facade of the Bauhaus building suddenly appearing opposite,” Bill (1908–94) said years later. “There was nothing else like it: striking white walls and large dark glass facades and, in the foreground, the students’ house with balconies and red lead doors. Sensational!”
He began studying metalwork under Moholy-Nagy but quickly stopped attending those classes as painting took up more and more of his time; the influence of Klee, in part because the two could speak together in Swiss-German, was powerful. From Albers, he began to learn a philosophy in painting that would lead him to articulate his own language in design, things “less to do with painting than with the collective relationship that design-oriented people have with their environment. It was the stimuli radiating from Albers that activated the will in me to find the fundamentality of a thing.” Bill’s colorful, unfettered student expressionism stands in stark contrast today to his legacy as a poetically rectilinear designer, the paradigm of Swiss harmony and functional economy. But his training with canvas and brush never left him. “Painting was a completely natural thing for me to do,” he said in 1993, for an essay by the art historian Dr. Angela Thomas Schmid, his widow, who directs the Max Bill Georges Vantongerloo Stiftung in Zurich. “And this naturalness has remained with me, even to this day.”
Teilung und Multiplikation (Division and Multiplication), 1929, gouache over watercolor on Japanese paper.
RauchblĂ¤ser (Smoke Blower), 1929, painting on hardboard.
Tiefer Gesang (Low Chant), 1928, gouache over watercolor on paper on original cardboard.
Hermaphrodith (Hermaphrodite), 1929, ink on Japanese paper.
Siamesische ZwillingsAkrobaten (Siamese Twins Acrobats), 1929, oil on cardboard.
Ohne Titel, Entwurf für eine Wandmalerei mit grossem “O” (Untitled, draft for a wall-painting with a large “O”), 1932, gouache.
Glasbild (Glass Picture), 1930–31, crystal glass, sandplasted on one side.
Konstruktion (Construction), 1934, oil on compressed wood.
To coincide with the centenary of the Bauhaus's founding, a major exhibition, ‘max bill. bauhaus constellations,’ will be presented at Hauser & Wirth Zurich from June 9 through September 14, 2019, curated by Dr. Angela Thomas Schmid, president of the Max Bill Georges Vantongerloo Stiftung.
No. 44, 1929, Indian ink on Japanese paper.
Chillida Leku—sculptor Eduardo Chillida’s Basque haven—enters a new era
A few years before his death, Eduardo Chillida (1924–2002) recalled for a Spanish interviewer an epiphany he experienced in 1951 upon visiting a blacksmith’s forge in a village outside San Sebastián, his hometown, to which he had just returned after working in France. He had been working restlessly with plaster and light-colored stone but sensed these were not the materials he was destined to use—though deeply influenced by ancient scuplture, he had concluded: “I did not belong to the white light of Greece.” “When we entered the forge,” he said, “it became clear to me that I was right. Everything was black. There I discovered iron.” And at the same time, he discovered—perhaps rediscovered—the existential home for his work, in his beloved Basque country, “a land with dark light—the
HIS OWN BALANCE by Catherine Serrano
Catherine Serrano What year did you start here? Was the museum already here when you started working with Eduardo? Fernando Mikelarena It was around the same time. I started working with Eduardo in 1983, and a few months later, he decided to buy this farmhouse. I had seen the farmhouse before he bought it. It was completely in ruins. A shepherd would bring his sheep here, and he’d make a fire. Almost half of it didn’t have any tile, and there was no roof.
before they underwent this oxidation process.
And the outside pasture area? FM
This page: Eduardo Chillida, Herramientas (Tools), 1956, drawing.
Atlantic is dark; the Mediterranean is not.” In the early 1980s, Chillida and his wife, Pilar Belzunce, bought an expanse of rolling semi-wooded property on the outskirts of Hernani, a village near San Sebastián, and set about making the land and the existing buildings, some dating to the 16th century, into a permanent home for many of his works. Public access to the leku—the Basque word for place— began in 2000 but was limited during the remaining two years of Chillida’s life and in the years following his death. But in April the site fully opened to the public, and to mark the occasion, Hauser & Wirth’s Catherine Serrano recently sat down in the museum’s caserio, or farmhouse, to talk with Fernando Mikelarena, one of Chillida’s most cherished assistants, who began helping the sculptor make work in 1983. These are edited excerpts of their conversation.
Opposite: Eduardo Chillida (right) and Fernando Mikelarena (center) in the forge, San Sebastian,1989. Photo: Jesus Uriarte.
The outside was full of bramble and bush. You couldn’t see the dimension of the space. I should mention that this place was bought in three phases. In the first phase, it was just the farmhouse building with a small bit of land. Then he bought a bit more land. And in the third phase, he bought more land, because by that point, he had the idea for the museum. It was only for big works, because the pieces needed time to oxidize. It would take approximately one year for the oxidation to create a sort of skin, which breaks off. And then the oxidation process starts again, and after that, it doesn’t break off anymore. It starts to turn yellow and get darker, which takes another nine years. At that point, the rust is completely entrenched. He didn’t want the artworks to be sent away
And before he bought this land, where was this process carried out? FM
Before Chillida Leku, he worked with Galerie Maeght [founded in Cannes in 1936, with eventual locations in Paris and Barcelona]. He had a contract with them whereby he would send the works to them when they were completed. But he didn’t control the process. He didn’t like that. How old were you when you started working with Eduardo? FM
Twenty-three. At the time, I had minimal contact with art. I lived in a working-class neighborhood where there wasn’t any tradition of art. I liked to draw and I started to paint, but it was something personal; I didn’t want anyone in my neighborhood to see me painting. It went on like that for years, but I didn’t develop until a friend of mine invited me to sit in on some art classes he was taking when I was 18. The only thing I knew about art was what I learned with this student. Then I had to do my military service. And when I finished my military service, I started working with Eduardo. CS
The fact that you hadn’t studied art was something that Eduardo liked, correct?
Yes, Eduardo wanted to find someone to learn with him and develop alongside him. He didn’t mind at all that I didn’t know how to do the work. CS
Would he tell you about his plan for a particular work, or was it more like an ongoing discussion? FM
Opposite, foreground: Arco de la libertad (Arch of Freedom), 1993, Corten steel. Background: Lo profundo es el aire XIV (How Profound is the Air XIV), 1991, granite. This page: Basoa V (Forest V), 1997, Corten steel. All Chillida Leku photos: Gonzalo Machado.
He would have an initial drawing or design for some pieces, but I’d say that the vast majority came together along the way. We would prepare the material for roughly what he wanted to do. For example, if he wanted to do a Piende del viento, [Comb of the Wind, a set of ideas Chillida began to develop in the 1950s, which came to include his monumental steel work on the San Sebastián seafront, completed in 1976], we would prepare the material for the comb, and then we would work bit by bit, developing as we went. He wouldn’t have a really fixed idea. He liked to be in the moment. There were some works where he did have a more concrete idea, but there were just a few like this. He liked to be open to the working process because sometimes the results are surprising
and unexpected. When working with sculptures in alabaster, for example, there was never an initial design. He had the amount of material that he was going to use, and he’d say, “Let’s make a hole here and see what happens.” Then he would come in the next day, and we’d open up the space, and little by little, we would make progress until the piece was finished. With alabaster, we always worked like that. But for big projects, there were initial designs. CS
There were maquettes, correct? FM
Yes. For a large-scale project, he would always take the maquette to the foundry, but he would only use it up to a certain point. He would use the maquette for the first complicated movements, when he had to explain to the person who was realizing the work what was needed. It’s several movements over a few days, because you had to heat it up in the oven, take it out, let it cool down…Well, it’s a fairly long process. But once the main shape was there, he would let his instinct guide him, because among other things, the scale isn’t the same for a small piece as for a big one. You have a different way of looking at it. CS
It’s a different experience—how the material moves. There are more possibilities with a maquette. FM
Of course. The movements are different. When there’s more material, it becomes uncontrollable. You can’t do the exact same thing because it doesn’t make sense. CS
Did he work on the alabaster sculptures here at this site? FM
No, in his workshop, where he had his studio. He had his studio upstairs, and downstairs was our workshop. CS
So, you didn’t work here? FM
Just in the last few years. But a bit later, he started to work with granite. For granite, he needed a new space, so he began to create an area here that was suitable to work. CS
in the garden area? FM
No. At first, the granites were placed in a site, and they were worked on there. But then he decided he wanted his own collection, and he needed a space. He started to create the bases to put his pieces on. He would show the pieces to people who visited, and they’d say, “Wow, how amazing. Why don’t you start a museum?” I think that’s where he got the idea to have a museum. We already had all the pieces, and there was the opportunity to buy more land here, and so he started to think about creating his museum. It was a fairly relaxed process, without any rush, making progress little by little, and it was finished just in time. CS
Because it just opened up in the last years of Chillida’s life, correct? FM
Yes, in the last years, when he was already ill. CS
The people who said, “Why don’t you open a museum?” were they family members or friends? Or other artists? FM
Friends, artists, people who would come to visit. CS
Did you also spend time with these artists? FM
No, no. We didn’t stop working in the studio. In fact, we weren’t even here; we were in other places. Just in the last years did we begin to work here on some alabaster sculptures because they create so much dust. CS
And with the granite pieces as well? FM
A sculptor friend worked here with the granite. He was a stonecutter, so had experience working with stone. Sometimes I helped him; I took part in the finishing touches. CS
Do you have any specific memories of your time working with Eduardo in the foundry or of any particular pieces? FM
Were the granite pieces always here In our studio, we’d make small to
medium-size versions of all the pieces. We had our own foundry, and we would carry out the entire process there. Then, when we had to make them on a bigger scale, we’d go to the foundry in Legazpia. At one point, even Legazpia didn’t have enough capacity for certain pieces, so we started going to Reinosa, which is in Santander. We’d often go to the foundry with him, as he liked to have the support. But there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver in the foundry—you need so much heavy machinery. The team that worked at the foundry was huge: there were engineers, loads of workers, 14 or 15 people just to make the piece. We would work on one piece after another, and then someone would come along to do something, and they wouldn’t know what was going to happen. This excitement kept them on their toes. The people there really enjoyed the process. Eduardo had a way of simply explaining the process to the workers, what he wanted and how. When I’d talk to them later, they’d say, “This guy made a mistake; he thinks I’m the engineer, but I’m not the engineer.” And I would have to explain to them, “No, he knows who you are; he wants you to do it.” In that way, they’d feel a part of it, and they’d get excited about the story. Eduardo had a good eye for that.
Usually, they would offer him the most central site, the biggest square or wherever, but he liked to look for sites that were inspiring to him. The piece was always based on the space and what it said to him, both in terms of scale and the surrounding environment. Public squares usually weren’t very inspiring to him.
He had a different approach. There are some artists that just want to give orders and remove themselves, but with Eduardo, it’s a communal activity.
Lotura XXXII , which is enormous, was supposed to be installed as a public work in Whitehaven, England, but in the end he wasn’t happy with the site and changed his mind, correct?
Yes, exactly. It’s a process in which everyone has to work towards one goal, and everyone has to be on the same page. You have to work quickly, because a piece comes out of the oven red hot, and you only have a certain amount of time in which you can do the movements. So, when the piece is red hot, someone is cooling down one part and another person is maintaining another part. Everything has to be done in such a way that the movements are adjusted perfectly to the idea.
There was a lot of pressure. He had to have a lot of trust in everyone. FM
Yes. If something goes wrong, you’ve lost a day, you’ve lost material—you’ve lost everything. CS
Did a piece sometimes not turn out right, or did you have to stop working on a piece? FM
Actually, that happened rarely. Very rarely.
Are there any pieces that are here at the museum, but the original plan was for them to be in a public space? FM
When it came to the space where his work was to be placed, he was very strict. First, he had to see the space. If he was given a proposal to place one of his pieces in a city or wherever, he had to see the site. If he liked it, great. If not, he would suggest another site.
Yes. It was like his child, and if he didn’t like where it was going to live, then it would go back home with him.
This page: Mendi Huts I (Empty Mountains I), 1984, alabaster. Opposite, from top: Zabalaga Caserío (Zabalaga Farmhouse). Monumento a Fleming (Versión I) (Monument to Fleming, Version I), 1955, stone.
What is it like seeing a piece that you worked on again, after many years? FM
It’s a very satisfying experience. You have an idea of what the
piece is like, and then when you see it after a long time, it’s a very different piece. You see it with different eyes. That happened to me with De musica  in Dallas. I remember it very well, because this piece was made in Reinosa, and it was made around the time that my second daughter was born. Now she’s 29. I remember that my wife had just had her, and two days later, I had to go make the piece in Reinosa. I hadn’t seen it since then. Just this year, I saw it again after 29 years, and because of this story, I have a clear memory of it. CS
So, it’s a special piece for you. FM
Yes, for my daughter and for me. CS
Does your daughter know the story? FM
Yes, she does. When I knew I was going to Dallas, I said, “I have to go see it,” and they took me to see it. And it’s beautiful, extremely well preserved.
first time, it was standing up, and Are there any other pieces that you now it’s installed on the wall. Was have specific memories about? this typical for Chillida? CS
I have some stories about the processes. For example, the alabaster sculpture that we have here, Mendi Huts I . Normally, we start with the stone, and as I was telling you, we work on one part at a time, developing the piece day by day. We had practically finished the piece, and the last step was to cut a flat section of the alabaster for the base. Because all the work is on top, the base is left natural. We would prepare the base as little as possible, just enough to make it stable. For this piece, which was made from alabaster, we had everything prepared, and we had the piece upside down—the work was at the bottom, and the natural part at the top. It was prepared so that when Eduardo arrived, he would mark where we needed to cut, we’d cut it, and then we’d turn it back right side up. When he arrived that day, and we asked him to mark where to cut, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened. Last night I was dreaming about how to hollow out a mountain, Tindaya Mountain. And it’s this piece! This is the natural mountain [Chillida indicated the rough, as-yet un-flattened bottom of the upturned piece] and we leave it like this, inverted, and it stays like that.” That was the only piece that had a base that was worked on, and the top part was left natural.
Yes. Mostly at the beginning, because the works weren’t so overwhelming. There was a lot of balance involved, so there were several different positions in order to find this balance. What he liked, in the end, was for the piece to have its own balance. There are pieces that passed from one owner to another, and when we have asked for them back, they
sometimes arrive in a different position, because for some reason, the owner liked it more that way. This would put us in a difficult position: Do we put it back the way Eduardo had it? CS
And that’s part of your work now—to maintain Eduardo’s ideas of how he wanted to exhibit the works. It’s a bit like a caretaker of the works. You know what position they are meant to be in, which idea is closest to Eduardo’s.
had to go on a trip. But his world was the studio—from the studio to his house, and from his house to the studio. He had two studios—the work studio and his studio upstairs, where he spent time thinking and where he did his drawings and all that. I mean, when he came back from a trip, if it was a reasonable time of day, he’d usually come to the workshop to see how everything was going, before going home. He would be anxious to see how things were after being away for a few days. He’d have a look around and then go home.
This page: Consejo al Espacio IV (Advice to Space IV), 1987, Corten steel. Opposite: Lotura XXXII (Knot XXXII) and detail with artist’s seal, 1998, Corten steel. All images: © Zabalaga Leku. San Sebastián, VEGAP, 2019.
Incredible. That was his first stop. FM
Yes. His world was the workshop and his work. There were always projects and new things to do. I was always working. And then I made the change from making pieces to looking after them, transporting them, taking them to exhibitions. It was a different way of being involved in the world of art. First the creation process, then the maintenance process, looking after the piece. I’ve been lucky enough to do both. CS
Are there pieces here at the re-inauguration of Chillida Leku that you hadn’t encountered before? Because there are some loans here… FM
Yes, of course. As much as possible, if the original idea can be respected, that’s the best option. But he also had doubts with some works, about whether the piece should be horizontal or vertical. In the end, you reflect and you find a way of positioning the piece, and that way is the right way.
Amazing. So, after that piece of work, he began to think more about Tindaya? FM
About Tindaya and this whole world that he had dreamed about. Tindaya was a landmark for him. [After 1984, Chillida pursued plans for one of the most ambitious works of his career, as yet unrealized, a sculptural intervention inside a mountain in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, which would have involved digging through the interior of the mountain.]
It must be a different experience working now that Eduardo is no longer with us. Can you talk about how your work here at the museum has changed? FM
With Eduardo, we didn’t do anything else but work. It was crazy. He was a man of routine. We would start at 8 a.m., and he’d come in at around 9:30. He would only break his routine when he
But there were other pieces as well that can be positioned differently. When I saw Ecos  for the
The loans are works that I have only seen in photos, so it’s amazing to see them in person. They’re incredible works. I wasn’t part of the process, but I imagine the complexity of the piece, how it was made and how particular aspects were resolved. Some of the work we did with Eduardo, you don’t notice the manual work or the mechanical aspects. So I start to deduce, imagining where this piece had to be connected, and I enjoy it. CS
You do a kind of analysis? FM
Yes, exactly. How would I have done it? Because of the experience that I have, when I see the works, I say, “How did he come up with this?”
Hauser & Wirth Somerset opened in July 2014 on the site of the once-derelict Durslade Farm. The 18th century farm buildings were sensitively restored and new buildings were added to create a multipurpose arts center, complete with five exhibition spaces, an education room, restaurant and bookshop. The entire site was landscaped by acclaimed Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf and includes a 1.5-acre perennial meadow.
The rural outpost is firmly embedded in its local community, holding regular events that attract a broad range of visitors, from Family Saturdays and summer schools to cultural symposia and talks series. Annual events such as the Summer Party and the Pumpkin Festival have become fixtures in the local calendar.
Since opening in July 2014, Hauser & Wirth Somerset has welcomed over 650,000 visitors, held over 1,100 events attended by over 80,000 people, and been visited by over 500 educational institutions. The gallery does not charge an entrance fee but suggests a donation to a nominated local charity. So far, visitors have donated in excess of £75,000.
On March 28, 2019, Hauser & Wirth Somerset had the great privilege of welcoming Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
C E L E B R AT I N G F I V E Y E A R S
Clockwise from left: Her Majesty the Queen viewing the exhibition ‘Catherine Goodman Eve.’ Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke. Photo: Jason Ingram. Photo: David Bebber. Paul McCarthy’s Henry Moore Bound to Fail , 2004. Photo: David Bebber. Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke. Durslade Farmhouse dining room, mural by Guillermo Kuitca, 2013. Photo: Aaron Schuman. Photo: Vincent Evans.
Patriotic Jell-O Salad (serves a small army)
Here’s an attractive Jell-O salad for Americans thinking of military adventures. Because of the coloration, it would certainly be adaptable for French people as well. Jell-O is the American dessert par excellence. Jell-O salads are a staple of church suppers and potluck dinners in the Midwest and the South of the United States, where they often contain chunks of pineapple and tiny marshmallows and other fruits in what is called Ambrosia salad. Patriotic Jell-O Salad must be assembled in layers, so please reserve enough time for each layer to become firm in the refrigerator. For serving a large crowd, follow these instructions: FIND A VERY LARGE BOWL OR MOLD Buy a large box of unflavored gelatin or any flavor of Jell-O brand dessert, in the appropriate colors, such as raspberry and blueberry. For the white layer, however, you will need packets of unflavored gelatin and some whitener. V egetarians and vegans may choose to use agar-agar instead of gelatin. Jell-O is also available kosher-certified by the rabbinate and as halal. ARRANGE THE WAR ICONS AND FLAGS YOU WOULD LIKE TO INCLUDE I have chosen many representation of soldiers and weaponry, cell phones, petrol or gasoline stations and road signs, barbed wire fences, palm trees, tanks and Humvees. I used different sizes for the different layers, as much as possible, with the smaller items at the top and the larger ones at the bottom. ASSEMBLING THE BLUE LAYER
Adapted from the recipe originally published as “La Recette de Martha Rosler: Dessert patriotique à la gelee (Patriotic Jell-O Salad).” Beaux Arts, No. 235, December 2003.
Dissolve 4 small envelopes unflavored gelatin in 1 cup cold water. Add 2 cups hot, almost boiling, water. Add blue liquid food coloring.
Refrigerate until mixture is partially set but not too firm. C hoose the toys and weapons you wish for this layer. Remember to put them in face down because the salad will be inverted before it is served. Let set in the refrigerator. Eliminate any bubbles in the gelatin mixture before putting it into the refrigerator. ASSEMBLING THE WHITE LAYER Dissolve 5 small envelopes unﬂavored gelatin in 1 cup cold water. Add 2 ½ cups hot, almost boiling, water. For the white coloring, mix in a small amount of milk or yogurt. P our carefully over the first layer; you do not want to disturb its surface. Refrigerate until partially set. Choose the toys and weapons you wish for this layer. Remember once again to put them in face down. Let set in the refrigerator. ASSEMBLING THE RED LAYER Dissolve 6 small envelopes unflavored gelatin in 1 cup cold water. Add 2 ½ cups hot, almost boiling, water. Add red liquid food coloring. Once again, pour mixture carefully over the previous layers. Refrigerate until partially set. Choose the toys and weapons you wish for this layer. Blue, yellow and silver ones work well. AND FINALLY Allow Jell-O salad to completely set. When ready to serve, unmold on a large platter. Garnish with the appropriate objects to display patriotic pride. A few bunches of wine grapes also add a handsome and festive note.
Ideal day in the city I would start on a Sunday at the Sunder Nagar Nursery, which has a bustling farmers’ market. I’d then hop over to Café Lota at the National Crafts Museum for lunch. The menu is regional and creative and a bit street. Every day in Delhi, there is a play, film, performance or opening. Lavaash or Olive, nestled near the historic ruins of Mehrauli, would be my go-to spots for evening drinks and dinner. They are amongst the few places that don’t play loud gym music. But Delhi is full of places to eat. Or I might skip going out to dinner and head over to the Piano Man Jazz Club to listen to live music. Favorite iconic attraction to show visitors The Red Fort and Jama Masjid and anywhere in the old city. Or the recently restored Humayun’s tomb, which is also a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. From Dara Shikoh (the poet-prince who is buried here) to Bahadur Shah Zafar (the last Mughal emperor before being exiled to Burma by the British), this mausoleum has borne witness to the private histories of so many and the public histories of the seven cities that came to make the Delhi we know today.
Favorite under-the-radar attraction Begum Samru’s haveli in Chandni Chowk or Bibi Fatima Sam’s tomb in central Delhi’s Kaka Nagar. The tomb is one of the few Sufi shrines where women are allowed into the inner sanctum, because Bibi Fatima was a woman. I won’t go to the others until they change the 700-yearold tradition. It infuriates me! Attraction to avoid Avoid Delhi all winter, from September to January, as the pollution has become appalling. Favorite local work of art The National Museum is wonderful, and the miniature paintings there are new to the eyes every time you see them. Delhi holds the histories of seven dynasties, and every now and again archaeological digs unearth more from our 5,000-yearold civilization.
Favorite local non-art museum Mehrauli Archaeological Park is peppered with baolis (ancient stepwells) and unconventional tombs that don’t belong to royal hierarchies. Jamali Kamali, the resting place of two Sufi saints who were said to be lovers, is one such example. It’s unofficially called the queer Taj Mahal and remains the site of LGBT activism to this day. The park also holds the murmurs of Delhi’s first city, the walled citadel known as Lal Kot. You can take all of this in while seeing the quintessential minaret of the Qutub Minar peeking over the skyline. In the quietude of dusk, night comes so quickly here. A sudden but synchronized birdsong across the city, and then it’s dark in minutes. Favorite escape from the city Ranthambore. I stay at Suján, where the best rangers will ensure that you see a tiger. It’s amazing to be deep in nature for a weekend and sit around a campfire at night.
This page: Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi, India. Photo: Jui-Chi Chan/Alamy. Opposite: Dieter Roth, Reykjavik Slides (detail), Part 1: 1973–75; Part 2: 1990–98, 31,000 slides, 3 wooden shelves, 8 slide projectors on pedestals. © Dieter Roth Estate. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
BHARTI KHER Working between London and New Delhi, Kher re-contextualizes found objects into constructed dream scapes, utilizing artifacts as a point of departure from which the quotidian engages the surreal.
BJÖRN ROTH A close collaborator with his father, the wildly inventive Swiss artist Dieter Roth (1930–98), Björn breathes new life into the art and installation made during Dieter’s life and, in his own work, advances the concept of a multigenerational family art practice. Ideal day in the city After a leisurely morning coffee at one of the many cafés downtown, I would walk along the seashore and through the downtown area to Sundhollin, the oldest public baths in Iceland, designed by the noted architect Gudjon Samuelsson. For lunch, Grandi Food Hall is steps away from the Marshall House, a former fish meal factory, which now houses the Living Art Museum and Kling & Bang Gallery. Next, I’d spend the afternoon at the ReykjavÍk Art Museum’s Hafnarhus and the National Gallery by the ReykjavÍk Pond. For a coffee break, I’d head to Asmundarsalur art space, where I’d browse the art books while enjoying my coffee. In the evening, I might check out Mengi, an artist-run music and performance space as well as a record company. The obvious place for dinner following a performance would be the nearby Snaps Brasserie and Bar, a favorite haunt for artists and creative types. For a nightcap, the bar at the Hotel Holt, where you sit surrounded by Johannes Sveinsson Kjarval sketches, is the perfect end to a Reykjavík night out.
Favorite iconic attraction to show visitors The Kleifarvatn lake and the Krýsuvík geothermal area in the ReykjavÍk peninsula. Only a 20-minute drive from downtown ReykjavÍk, the peninsula is pure Icelandic wilderness. Attraction to avoid Tourist attractions in the vicinity of Reykjavík, such as the Golden Circle. The nature is stunning, but so are the crowds. Favorite local work of art The old houses in Reykjavík, which my father documented with the help of my brother and me a few decades ago. A stroll through the old parts of the downtown area is incomparably enjoyable. Many of the houses were set to be demolished in the late ’60s but were saved by artists.
Favorite local non-art museum Rjomabuid Baugsstodum, a former creamery in the nearby town of Stokkseyri. Here you learn how Icelandic dairy farmers made cream, butter and cheese in the first half of the 20th century. Favorite escape from the city At the Snaefellsnes peninsula, in western Iceland, you can hike to the top of the glacier, drive through the impressive lava fields created by the volcano, or simply stroll along the exceptionally beautiful seashore. The small village of Hellnar, on the south side of the peninsula, has a couple of lovely restaurants, and the north side is dotted with small fishing villages where you’ll find charming lunch and dinner options. There you will also find the beautiful town of Stykkishólmur, home to Roni Horn’s Library of Water in the town’s former library, perched on a cliff with a view over the town and its harbor.
Ideal day in the neighborhood Jackson Heights, Queens, loves parades and food festivals. We hold the second largest Halloween parade in New York City, and the Queens Pride Parade, going strong since 1993, takes place in early June. It’s a day to cheer our neighbors; see fabulous drag; gasp at the gorgeous, barely clad men from Hombres Lounge and Club Evolution; and dance in the streets. During the summer, it seems like there’s a parade every weekend: the Colombian Festival of Flowers Parade, the Ecuador Independence Parade, the Bolivian Day Parade… Favorite iconic attraction to show visitors 74th Street in Little India is a glittering jumble of sari shops, jewelry stores, momo trucks, Indian and Pakistani restaurants, and posters announcing the latest Bollywood extravaganza. Have lunch at the veritable Jackson Diner or Al Naimat Restaurant & Sweets, duck into Butala Emporium to find a perfect gift, then roam around Patel Brothers, an Indian supermarket. Favorite under-the-radar attraction Having lunch at the counter of the last Jahn’s Family Restaurant takes
DAVID ZINK YI The Berlin-based artist uses performance, sculpture and film to explore cultural tradition as a creative medium and the body as a tool for that expression.
me back to childhood; it feels like nothing has changed since then. And who can resist the lure of a ginormous ice cream sundae with whipped cream and hot fudge? Attraction to avoid I wouldn’t suggest visiting the bailaderos, or taxi clubs, on Roosevelt Avenue, where men pay women for dances to pounding music. At 4 a.m., Roosevelt is awash with women in very high heels and very short dresses, drunken men, and desperation. Favorite local work of art “Wink,” the Jackson Heights penguin. Why is there a bronze statue of an Argentinean penguin in our neighborhood? I don’t know, but he is our very nattily dressed mascot. His outfits have range: Colombian futbol jersey with a soccer ball hat; Easter dress and bunny ears; warm knit scarf and hat in winter; rainbow regalia for the Pride Parade.
Favorite local non-art museum Close by, in Corona, Queens, is the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Go check out Louis and Lucille’s turquoise-blue kitchen. The house is preserved exactly as it was, as though they just stepped out of the door. Lucille’s nightgown is still arranged on the bed. It’s a gem of a place filled with love and jazz. Favorite escape from the neighborhood If it’s warm enough, my husband and I will walk all the way to the water to visit Anable Basin Sailing Bar & Grill, in Long Island City. Nothing beats sitting outside, looking at the Manhattan skyline while eating cevapi from the Balkans and drinking beer. If we’re craving dumplings in chili oil, we’ll get on the 7 train towards Flushing to visit White Bear. If laziness prevails, we take a short walk to Elmhurst to Eim Khao Mun Kai, a tiny place that serves only delicious Hainanese chicken.
This page: The Ninth Annual Flower Parade (Desfile de las Flores) in Jackson Heights, New York. Photo: Richard Levine/Alamy. Opposite: Abandoned roller coaster in Treptower Park (a.k.a. Spreepark), Berlin. Photo: CBW/Alamy.
MIRSINI AMIDON A New York native, Amidon worked as the studio manager to her father, the renowned abstract painter Jack Whitten, during his lifetime. She now co-manages the Jack Whitten Estate alongside her mother, Mary Whitten.
Ideal day in the city In good weather, I would go to the Spreepark with my daughters after a nice long breakfast. There you’ll encounter an eerie landscape of amusement park rides covered in moss, along with dilapidated dinosaur statues. It’s like being on a bizarre movie set. Children love it. If the weather is bad, I would go to the Gemäldegalerie and spend the whole morning there, though my kids’ enthusiasm tends to wane a little more quickly than mine in the company of Old Masters. In the afternoon, I would go to Rogacki and have a late lunch at the fish counter. You have to eat standing up, but they have the best oysters and grilled fish in Berlin. At the end of the day, I’d go to the studio where I’d work until late at night. Favorite iconic attraction to show visitors The Berlin Philharmonic is a special place. It’s best to buy last-minute tickets the evening of the performance and get cheaper seats right behind the orchestra. The city also has more than its share of good museums: the Pergamon, the Museum of Natural History, the New Museum, the New National Gallery, etc. Or, if the weather’s nice, a visit to Tempelhof Field is a good way to spend a day. Formerly
an airfield, the giant open space in the heart of Berlin is now a recreational area. And then, of course, there’s Berlin’s notorious nightlife scene, but unfortunately, I’m no longer the best tour guide for that.
Favorite local non-art museum The Egyptian courtyard at the Neues Museum, although you can’t really say that’s not art… I also like to visit the Museum of Natural History.
Favorite under-the-radar attraction I love covered markets. I always like to stop at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg, where it’s fun to shop or grab a bite to eat, or at the Arminius Market Hall in Moabit, where a good Peruvian place recently opened up.
Favorite escape from the city I’m ashamed to admit that since I have so many relatives in South and Central America, I usually only leave Berlin by plane. So actually, my favorite “escape” is quite far away, if time permits.
Attraction to avoid The Brandenburg Gate when there’s a big celebration going on, like New Year’s Eve or a live showing of a German soccer game. Favorite local work of art Thomas Schütte’s United Enemies in the garden at Museum Berggruen might be one of them.
AMY SHERALD Redefining the tradition of portraiture, Sherald composes vibrant paintings of contemporary African Americans that fissure the construct of color as a term for racial identity. Ideal day in the city I’d start the day with a morning walk to get coffee at Ceremony and enjoy it on their patio. Then I would scoot over to Belvedere Square for brunch at Neopol Savory Smokery. I would spend the afternoon with the dog at Wyman Park, walking the Stony Run trails. For dinner, I’d go to Woodbery Kitchen, a James Beard award-winning restaurant housed in a converted mill, followed by a movie at the Charles Theatre capped off with sangria from Tapas Teatro.
Favorite iconic attraction to show visitors I bring people to Federal Hill, which gives you great views of the whole city. Favorite under-the-radar attraction W.C. Harlan is a cool and intimate speakeasy with inventive cocktails. Walking into this bar is like stepping through a time machine into the 1920s. Attraction to avoid I tend to avoid the Inner Harbor because of the crowds, and it doesn’t fully represent the vibrant, diverse community of Baltimore. Favorite local work of art There is an alley behind my studio known as Graffiti Alley. This is my
favorite because street artists can come to make their work without fear of arrest, which keeps the alley’s art changing every day. Favorite local non-art museum The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, on the North Avenue corridor. The first wax museum dedicated to African-American history and culture, it features more than 150 renditions of prominent figures, including Ida B. Wells, Henry “Box” Brown and President Obama. Favorite escape Getting a room at the Sagamore Pendry in Fells Point. This is a renovated Beaux Arts building that originally stored ships’ cargo. It features an incredible restaurant and a pool to lay by with exceptional views.
Graffiti Alley in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Jon Bilous/Alamy.
Shored Against the Ruins
Mark di Suvero, a founding member of the artists’ cooperative known as the Park Place Group, was the reason I lived in Lower Manhattan. His loft, at 191 Front Street, was an open house for artists on Sundays, most of whom, like myself, were potheads. Frosty Myers, David Novros and Tony Magar were all good friends. In 1969, the New York State Council on the Arts, which had funded my work, made an exhibition of large prints and hung them in an abandoned storefront in the Fulton Fish Market. One day Mark took me to his third-floor window, which looked down on the fish market. A large banner was hanging from a flagpole across the street. It said “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan.” “See,” said Mark, “you ruined the neighborhood.” When I was making the pictures in 1966 and 1967, Park Place Gallery was located in a large walk-in storefront loft on West Broadway, below Bleecker. Paula Cooper was the new director. I would park my old TR6 motorcycle, a single-carburetor Triumph with a candy-red tank, inside the
gallery, because I could roll it right in from the street. Park Place had begun in a downtown building on the west side, and Frosty said I should go over to see it. It sat on the edge of the future site of the World Trade Center. Almost nothing remained around it. I had no trouble getting inside. The gallery had been on the second floor, up a dirt-covered flight of wooden stairs. Abandoned canvases littered the floor. A colored plastic mobile dangled from the ceiling. Later that day, I took Tony Magar for a ride on my Triumph down the FDR Drive, under the bridges and around the bottom of Manhattan. I had been through the Southern civil rights movement, had been a Chicago Outlaw. I was ripping Tri-X through my cameras, 24 years old and, frankly, just full of myself. I turned back to Tony, who was clutching me as we roared down the road. “Tony,” I said. “I’m at the height of my powers!” Tony was from London, had a cockney accent and was a very funny guy. He leaned forward and yelled into my ear, “Yeah! So was James Dean.” —Danny Lyon
The photographer Danny Lyon, born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, returned to his native city in 1966 after working to document the civil rights movement for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and then publishing The Bikeriders, his classic account of life with the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle gang. Back in New York, casting about for his next project, he found it in the Piranesi-esque scenes of demolition just then unfolding below Canal Street, as powerful city shapers like Robert Moses and David Rockefeller razed vast swaths of old residential and industrial blocks to make way for development that would include the World Trade Center. With a state grant and a view camera in hand, Lyon began to follow the wrecking ball. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, his indelible record of what he saw as the wholesale erasure of “fossils of a time past.” Above, 79 Park Place (1967), Lyon’s portrait of the condemned original home of the Park Place Group—a collection of artists that included Mark di Suvero, Robert Grosvenor, Forrest Myers, Tamara Melcher, Leo Valledor and Dean Fleming. In 1965, the group opened the Park Place Gallery, one of the first galleries in the neighborhood that was to become known as SoHo.
Danny Lyon, 79 Park Place, from the series The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, 1967. © Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos.