“When you argue with an intelligent person, you can’t win. When you argue with a stupid person, you can’t stop.”
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
What a privilege it is to spend time with artists and learn how they gain the confidence and courage that allow them to transform their visions into memorable cultural contributions. It’s on this artistic journey, with its unpredictability, its challenges, and its perpetual evolution, that the Rail models itself. Immanuel Kant famously wrote that “out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” This is what artists understand! This is why their work feeds on the work of others. I can’t imagine Alex Katz, Richard Tuttle, Pat Steir, Bill Jensen, or Amy Sillman without the world of poetry, without Edwin Denby, Frank O’Hara, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hinton, Anne Waldman, Charles Bernstein, and endless others. I can’t imagine Richard Serra without film, music, dance; without Michael Snow, Morton Feldman, and Joan Jonas. I can’t imagine Alain Kirili and Ariane Lopez-Huici without the jazz, poetry, and other events they host in their loft, or without people like Ornette Coleman, Carter Ratcliff, and Vincent Katz. I can’t imagine Shirin Neshat not having worked at the Storefront for Art and Architecture for ten years, after giving up a career in painting to embark on a neverending search for a path that traverses between the East and West to ease her sense of displacement. Something similar could be said of Clifford Ross, who tested himself for years as a painter and sculptor before finding his true calling as a photographer and now a filmmaker and video and installation artist—and god knows what else next! Will Ryman struggled for more than a decade as a playwright before discovering his alchemical aptitude as a sculptor. Suzan Frecon, Joanna Pousette-Dart, Etel Adnan, Rosalyn Drexler, Lisa Yuskavage, David Novros, Margrit Lewczuk, Kiki Smith, Rona Pondick, Stanley Whitney, Chris Martin, and countless others are among whose courageous journeys have been documented in the pages of the Rail.
It was mostly support from artists’ foundations, including the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Dedalus Foundation, the Greenwich Collection, the Foundation of Contemporary Arts, and the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation, that kept the Rail alive in its formative years. I’m thrilled that the Alex Katz Foundation, the Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation, the Bill Jensen and Margrit Lewczuk Foundation, and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation have recently been added to that list.
I should mention that our new headquarters at Industry City in Sunset Park signals a new and profound growth that reaffirms the vision that the Rail, the Dedalus Foundation, and Industry City share in building a creative community, sparked in part by the Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1 show we put together in 2013. We’re more prepared than ever to undertake new challenges and realize new potentials. Starting this October, the social environment of the Rail will be recontextualized as a work of art in a gallery space. The rest is still to unfold—as in V.S. Naipal’s The Enigma of Arrival, one of my favorite books.
Our fifteenth-anniversary benefit at Pace was a great success that will continue this momentum. The thank-you list is long but I can say that the Rail is grateful to Marc Glimcher and the Pace staff for so graciously hosting us. I am particularly thankful to everyone at the Rail: to our board members, by Chris Apgar, Dan Desmond, Meghan Carleton, John Koegel, Abby Leigh, Michele Gerber-Klein, Merrill Wagner, Michael Straus, and Will Ryman; to Box Art; to Sara Christoph who has been working tirelessly with Anne Livet’s team, Lora Evinger and Sara Wyer, while Laila Pedro along with Taylor Dafoe, Walter Chiu, Maggie Barrett, Yasaman Alipour, Connie Kang, Alexandra Fowle, and Darragh McNicholas took care of our daily operations at the new headquarters. Lastly, we would like to express our deepest gratitude for the generosity of our artist friends without whom there would be no Brooklyn Rail.
Happy Lunar New Year with love and peace. A very happy birthday to our Senior Production Assistant par exellence, Connie Kang on her birthday, and to our dear friend George Braziller on his 100th birthday!
P.S. This issue is dedicated to Ellsworth Kelly, Thornton Dial, Pierre Boulez, and David Bowie whose works will continue to inspire us all.
Phong Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.