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Barbara Rose, Critic and Historian of Modern Art, Dies at 84 – The New York Times

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She wrote a celebrated college textbook, but, extending her reach beyond academia, she preferred exploring the unfolding art of the present.

Barbara Rose, the influential art historian and critic who began her career as a champion of Minimalism and wrote about culture with an authority informed by her close friendships with two generations of artists in New York and abroad, died on Friday in Concord, N.H. She was 84.

Her death, in a hospice, was confirmed by her husband, Richard Du Boff, who said that she had had breast cancer for a decade.

Ms. Rose is probably best known as the author of the textbook “American Art Since 1900,” which became a campus perennial in the 1970s. But, extending her reach beyond academia, she preferred exploring the unfolding art of the present.

She was an art critic for Vogue and New York magazines and produced eight documentary films. A devotee of the ritual known as studio visits, she was always traipsing to artists’ lofts to look at their latest paintings and probe for helpful information.

“The reason I interviewed artists is because I really wanted to know the answer to my questions,” she said in a recent lecture. “I never thought of them as interviews.”

Art critics as much as artists are shaped indelibly by their moment of entry onto the art scene. Ms. Rose formed her approach at a time when Minimalism was ascendant, and she married one of its key exponents, the artist Frank Stella. With their combined displays of wit, knowledge and slanting opinion, they were a glamorous couple but, according to Ms. Rose, certainly not unflawed.

“We had babies right away,” she told New York magazine, “and everyone in SoHo said, ‘Oh, look, the babies had babies!’”

In her criticism and essays, Ms. Rose took a formalist approach, maintaining that abstract painting is inherently superior to realism. As the decades passed, her faith in connoisseurship came to seem conservative and a rebuff to the present era, in which the meaning of any work of art is deemed inseparable from issues of race and gender.

Even so, Ms. Rose probably did as much as any critic of the postwar era to advance the art careers of women. In 1971, she wrote the first major monograph on Helen Frankenthaler. In 1983, she organized the first museum retrospective of Lee Krasner’s work, a year before Ms. Krasner’s death.

Ms. Rose also furnished the text for definitive monographs on Magdalena Abakanowicz, Nancy Graves, Beverly Pepper and Niki de Saint Phalle, contemporary female sculptors whose work encompassed a gamut of styles.

And although she generally denigrated photography as a lower art form devoid of the imaginative majesty of painting, she wrote a book on the photographs of Carolyn Marks Blackwood after discovering her work in a small-town library show near her summer house in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

“She took me seriously when no one took me seriously, including myself,” Ms. Marks Blackwood said in a phone interview.

Ms. Rose was a vivid personality, a slender blonde with large green eyes, a dimpled smile and a taste for turbans that could rival those of Gloria Swanson. She taught and lectured at several colleges and universities, including Sarah Lawrence, and formed enduring friendships with her students.

The artist Lois Lane, who studied with her at Yale, recalled her astonishment when Ms. Rose materialized at the Willard Gallery in Manhattan and purchased a Lane painting. “Barbara whooshed in there, in true Fairy Godmother style, and that was my first sale,” Ms. Lane wrote in an email. “She has whooshed in so many times over the years.”

Barbara Ellen Rose was born on June 11, 1936, in Washington, the oldest child of Lillian and Ben Rose. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father, who owned a liquor store, had a cut-glass bar made for the family’s recreation room. By the age of 3, Barbara felt aesthetically offended by her “bland, tasteless or vulgar surroundings,” she wrote in a forthcoming memoir, and resolved to flee as soon as she could.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Barnard and attended graduate school at Columbia, writing her thesis on 16th-century Spanish painting and visiting Pamplona on a Fulbright fellowship. It was the beginning of a lasting fascination with Madrid, where she eventually acquired a home. In 2010, she was awarded the Order of Isabella by the Spanish government for her contributions to Spanish culture.

Ms. Rose was still a student when she started dating Mr. Stella, a precocious Princeton alumnus whose austere black-stripe paintings were pushing art away from the expressionist past. In the fall of 1961 he followed her to Pamplona, sketching in their hotel room as she visited age-old churches to research Navarrese painting.

They were married that October at the register’s office in London. Michael Fried, the formalist art historian, served as a witness and gave them a volume of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s writings as a gift.

Ms. Rose later said that she started writing criticism with Mr. Fried’s encouragement. Her landmark essay “ABC Art,” published in Art in America in October 1965, identified a generation of young artists whose work, she wrote, gave off a “blank, neutral and mechanical impersonality.” They included Mr. Stella, as well as Carl Andre, Robert Morris and Donald Judd. Linking their work to European predecessors like Kazimir Malevich and, less predictably, Marcel Duchamp, she provided a lofty historical lineage for the vanguard art of the ’60s.

Her marriage to Mr. Stella ended in 1969, and they both divorced themselves from their early embrace of Minimalism as well. “The only thing anybody knows about me is that I wrote that article with the title I didn’t give it,” Ms. Rose lamented in Artforum magazine in 2016, referring to “ABC Art.” She blamed her editor for the headline.

In place of reductivism, she championed art that replenished painting with inwardness, subjectivity and lush brushwork. She particularly admired the paintings and prints of Jasper Johns, with his “world of psychologically charged images,” as she wrote in the catalog for “American Painting: The Eighties,” an important group show that she organized in 1979 at New York University’s Gray Art Gallery.

The exhibition included post-Minimalist, imagistic paintings by Ms. Lane, Susan Rothenberg, Bill Jensen, Robert Moskowitz and Gary Stephan, among others, and its grandiose title — it was named for a decade that had yet to begin — was taken by critics as either brilliant prophecy or brazen posturing.

In a time when professional women were often branded as overly ambitious, Ms. Rose endured countless jabs from her male colleagues. “I have been beat up by more people than Hillary Clinton,” she joked in 2016.

Among them was Robert Hughes, the art critic for Time magazine, who described Ms. Rose in his memoirs as “one of the most extreme cases of misplaced self-confidence I have ever come across” — no matter that she proved indispensable when he moved to New York from his native Australia, chaperoning him through the lofts of SoHo and providing him with instant entree to the art scene.

William Grigsby/Condé Nast, via Getty Images

It is true that Ms. Rose could be imperious. In 1981, hired as a senior curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, she declined to move to Houston or give up her longtime position as the art critic of Vogue. Her stint as a Texas curator ended awkwardly in 1985, after she bemoaned the city’s cultural backwardness in an interview with the magazine Artspace.

Ms. Rose was married four times, including twice to Mr. Du Boff, an economic historian who was both her first and last husband. After her divorce from Mr. Stella, she married the rock lyricist Jerry Leiber, who collaborated with the composer Mike Stoller on hit songs for Elvis Presley, the Coasters and many others. In 2009, she remarried Mr. Du Boff on what was their 50th wedding anniversary.

In addition to him, she is survived by her two children from her marriage to Mr. Stella, Rachel and Michael Stella, and four grandchildren.

In her last decade, though suffering from advanced cancer, Ms. Rose sat at her desk and wrote a memoir, “The Girl Who Loved Artists,” which she had been circulating to publishers at her death. Her characterization of herself as a “girl” might seem coy for a woman whose body of work is marked by a formidable critical voice, but Ms. Rose was full of contradictions.

Her last published article was a review of work by Andrew Lyght, the Guyana-born artist, which appeared in The Brooklyn Rail in October. “The capacity to synthesize opposites is one of the distinctions of his entirely original style,” she wrote. That comment could have applied just as easily to her.

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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio

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Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”

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Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.

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“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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mobile art gallery, yk arcc

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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”

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