In the Spring 2002 issue of Aperture, we enclosed a letter regarding the untimely death on November 23, 2001 of Michael E. Hoffman—Aperture’s Executive Director and Publisher since 1964. Because of our long lead time, we were unable to publish a remembrance of Michael in that issue, and so we do so now, six months after his death.
Last fall, I was speaking at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. When I was done, one of the students there whispered to me, “You ought to look at the show downstairs.” So dutifully I made my way to the basement where, snaking along the side of a gallery wall, was a solid line of small color prints, placed so close together as to appear seamless, i.e., no white space.
“Reflections in Black” is a landmark exhibition of African-American photography that debuted at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and was presented last fall at the Studio Museum in Harlem. This historically focused exhibition traces 160 years of African-American photography and, by extension, documents the people, places, rituals, trials, and events that have shaped black life in the United States since the invention of photography.
All too often, we are obliged to report the loss of a treasured member of the Aperture community. Never has this obligation brought us more sadness, nor a more lingering sense of disbelief than with the death on November 23, 2001 of our Executive Director, Michael E. Hoffman, at age fifty-nine.
The pile of Aperture issues rests on the clean table as cool north light seeps into the old brownstone. I tell myself to think of the half century of issues, sequencings, arguments, and folios as nothing more than flash cards flaming past the eye.
A work of art is a revelation: a disclosure of something unknown or not yet realized in its particularity until the point of its making. It is not uncommon for an artist to describe herself as a channel for— rather than a generator of—visions, ideas, and age-old stories.
It was an odd proposition: to arrive in a park you don’t know at 6 AM on a dark, wet December morning so that some obsessively brilliant scientist can “fetch” you from the woods. But there I am, at a specified picnic area in Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C.— my goal to meet the tropical ecologist/botanist/low-land gorilla expert, New Jersey—born, California-raised Dr. J. Michael “Mike” Fay.
“You may like my work,” Lucas Samaras once told an interviewer. “You may find, however, that you do not like me.” Although he offered no similar warning to me, on the two occasions that we met and talked, his welcome was more wary than warm, and he made no pretense of being either convivial or confessional.
Foreign terms are in vogue in Russia these days. You hear and read them everywhere: marketing, business-lunch, résumé, spa. . . . Once a foreign experience is learned, its untranslatable name is quick to enter the Russian everyday vocabulary.
Information front lines are as dangerous as military ones. Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF, also known as Reporters Without Borders) is a Paris-based organization devoted to freedom of the press. In the last fifteen years, more than 775 journalists have been killed worldwide.
Proust is an excellent mental photographer, sometimes a reporter, sometimes a portraitist, a landscapist, or a night photographer. He has the reporter’s curiosity, acuity of vision, and promptitude of glance. Several Proustian exegetes have managed to reveal these qualities of the writer: for instance, Jean-François Revel, in Sur Proust, is struck “by the number of short self-sufficient sequences” and observes that for Proust “the snapshot acquires from the start the vivacity of a close-up, the narrative potential encased within the very immobility of the image.”. . .
VINCE ALETTI is the art editor and photography critic for the Village Voice and a regular contributor to Artforum magazine. He was the co-editor of Aperture's Male/Female, which featured his interview with Madonna, and an essayist for The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century (Roth Horowitz, LLC/PPP Editions, in collaboration with DAP, 2001).
USA BILOXI, MS The Living Legacy of the Mississippi Delta May 3— June 15, 2002 BOSTON, MA Museum of Fine Arts Lens Landscape April 10—October 6, 2002 CHICAGO, IL The Art Institute of Chicago Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting June 22—