Before I met Abraham Cruzvillegas, more than once I’d heard curator Clara Kim mention in passing that he was a special person. This piqued my curiosity. When I finally met him in Los Angeles in 2008, the rumors about him were confirmed. Five years after our first meeting, my sense of his uniqueness has not waned but rather continues to grow through our different interactions. We’ve introduced our respective home cities to each other and see each other’s shows whenever we can. So powerful are Abraham’s special qualities that they seem to be contagious—he influences people around him, alters their experiences and perception of what is possible in life.
Gyula Kosice (b. 1924) is one of the more remarkable visionary artists of the previous century and certainly the most exotic Hungarian transplant to take root in Buenos Aires. A visual artist, poet, and theorist, Kosice was a founder (with Carmelo Arden Quin and Rhod Rothfuss) of the influential Madí group in 1946, which helped to transmit and transform Bauhaus ideas in Latin America, while adding an element of ludic invention and creative freedom. Fascinated by technology and committed to an art of the future, Kosice was among the first artists to use neon in sculpture and early on employed water in unprecedented ways in his work. His iterations of the theoretical Hydrospatial City, begun in the 1970s, place him among a group of visionary thinkers, including the late Paolo Soleri and Buckminster Fuller, who have reimagined the built environment. Recently Kosice participated in an extended interview with Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, director of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, published in book and ebook form as one of the “Conversations” series from the Fundación. Expanding on that dialogue, the following exchange among Kosice, Pérez-Barreiro (as interlocutor and translator), and me took place in November via telephone in Buenos Aires and New York.
It was sometime in the fall of 1995, when I was an undergraduate art student at Cooper Union in New York City, that I first met Hope Gangloff. Cooper Union is exceptional at attracting talented, hard-working, self-motivated, socially awkward, and obsessive misfits from all over the US and from abroad by giving them a tuition-free opportunity to learn how to make stuff, which was, in our case, sometimes art. It was there, in the plaster studio, while suffering through some unresolved sculpture project (the details of which I have intentionally forgotten) that I first met Hope. I’m not sure what it is about friendships I forged in college, but they are intense and lasting. Hope and I have remained fiercely supportive and fiercely competitive with regard to our work. It is an unspoken contract that keeps us going and that we enjoy.
When I met Joanne Greenbaum last year in Jim Hyde’s kitchen, I didn’t know that she was the painter whose work I had admired for many years. Being a sort of on-call conversationalist, I was expected to talk to whomever was seated around the big, crowded table while Jim was busy cooking some fish-ratatouille concoction jammed with his favorite ingredients, anchovies and capers. While his back was inevitably to us, he’d usually be listening in, and I would often provoke him to turn around and cut me off, one way or another. In any event, Joanne and I struck up a great conversation and our dialogue has steadily progressed from there. My goal in the interview was to go in unprepared and let the words speak for themselves.
Fiona Maazel is the author of the novels Last Last Chance (2008) and Woke Up Lonely (2013). Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Conjunctions, This American Life, this magazine, and many more besides. She was the managing editor of the Paris Review (2003–2005), received a Lannan Residency, was a 2008 National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree, and won the Bard Fiction Prize.
I interviewed Phillip Lopate at his Brooklyn home, which he mentions in “Brooklyn the Unknowable,” one of the essays in his new collection, Portrait Inside My Head. There, he describes his reluctance to leave Manhattan for Brooklyn: “Brooklyn was the primeval ooze out of which I had crawled in order to make something of myself.” There is nothing of the primeval or oozing about the Carroll Gardens brownstone with which he and his wife, Cheryl, ended up falling in love and where they raised their daughter, Lily, who is now a college freshman. His is the only one on the block with enormous pots of flowering plants at the top of the long flight of stairs to the front door. Phillip greeted me, preceded by one of his three large cats.
Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro has made four feature and medium-length films to date: El hombre robado (The Stolen Man, 2007), Todos mienten (They All Lie, 2009), Rosalinda (2010), and his latest, Viola (2012), which recently screened in New York as part of the New Directors / New Films series. His films are remarkable for their worrying of literature and the tension between text and image. Each of the four films takes either a literary figure or text as the jumping-off point for an exploration of the slippery correspondence between narrative and reality. Piñeiro is making movies that point to one of the original questions raised by cinema: How does the imposition of writing—of language or of a lens—alter the world? His carefully structured films—balanced like mobiles, as he says—describe with precision that slippage between words and reality.
David Grubbs is a musician and composer, a PhD in literature, an associate professor at Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music and the MFA program in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA), and the author of the book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (Duke University Press, 2014). Recent collaborations include The Wired Salutation, a live performance with visual artist Angela Bulloch at the Centre Pompidou, and a forthcoming fourth intersection with writer Susan Howe, to be presented at multiple venues including ISSUE Project Room.
Beginning with Fairport Convention in 1967, Richard Thompson has, with a stately assurance, taken his guitar and preternatural capacity for songcraft to some astonishing heights. From Fairport classics like “Meet on the Ledge” and “Sloth,” to the Sufi-inflected gravitas of his work with Linda Thompson, to the vivid, tragic storytelling of solo songs like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and “Beeswing,” Thompson’s songwriting is pure, visionary, and indelible. His latest record, Electric, released earlier this year, marks no exception. At points rollicking, then resigned, and with a signature economy, it contains some truly great songs, the lilting “Salford Sunday” just one among them. I spoke to Richard a bit about his history, about songs, and about some of the people that he has worked with along the way.
Lucy Skaer might be hiding a time machine. It took me a while to figure out that she may be in possession of such a singular vehicle—initially I was confounded by the complexity of her assemblage of images, objects, and allegorical forms in her 2010 installation The Good Ship Blank and Ballast at K21 in Düsseldorf. The work has since evolved into different iterations at several galleries. The original work had a hermetic logic—consisting of the enlarged frontispiece to Sebastian Brant’s 1494 Ship of Fools chiseled into the wooden floor at a size of 9 by 14 feet; 98 pieces of ballast in the form of Brancusi’s Newborn, reduced in size and cast in aluminum; and a red curtain, bearing an imprint from the floor-cum-woodblock, now a branded (or “Branted”) sail.
If one believed in nominal determinism, one would say that Nadja Bournonville was destined to work on the subject of hysteria. Nadja is the name of a book written by André Breton about an elusive and disturbed young woman, which concludes with the line, “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all.” The name Bournonville hovers close to Bourneville, the doctor who treated the most famous of all hysterics, Augustine.