The Easel

23rd November 2021

Arthur Jafa

Jafa’s 2016 video essays have made him a global sensation. His new work, AGHDRA, is quiet, comprising imagery of a lumpy surface of “stuff”, with waves going out to a distant horizon. This “supreme mass” is “terribly beautiful—beautiful despite the terror, terrible despite the beauty.” Jafa calls it an attempt to “embody black experience in non-narrative terms”. The piece has no conclusion, “just endless, gut-wrenching, but still gorgeous churning.”

Annie Leibovitz: “A lot can be told in those moments in between the main moments”

Leibovitz is having a moment with multiple shows and a book. The reviews reveal a photographer of disparate parts. Her fashion images often indulge in fantasy, evoking narratives from history or literature as much as they showcase clothing. Her portraiture is about realism, perhaps reflecting her photojournalism roots at Rolling Stone. For Leibovitz, though, everything is a performance, with “both the photographer and [subjects as] contributors to cultural moments.”

In Willem de Kooning’s Loft at the Dawn of Bohemian New York

What was it like to be in New York when, after WW2, it was the white-hot centre of the art world? Schloss was a young art writer who seemingly had a talent for “being in the blazing-hot There”. Walking downtown with de Kooning was like “walking with Clark Gable in Hollywood.” His loft had “the smell of fire and brimstone in the air … A man had been measuring himself against the gods with nothing but a stick covered with paint … “Wow, that man, just standing there in his studio, wow!””