Sérgio Rodrigues in his Mole chair, 2009.

FEW CREATORS are lucky enough to have been at the peak of their creativity in the same field for six decades. Brazilian designer Sérgio Rodrigues, who passed away in Rio de Janeiro this September after having participated in events celebrating his sixty years in furniture design, was one of those lucky few. His career was impressive due not only to its sheer length but also to the superlative quality of his creations, which carried the imprint of Brazil’s DNA right from the start.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1927, Rodrigues received his degree in architecture in 1952. From the beginning, he paved his own path, working deliberately to express the amazing diversity of Brazilian identity. He delved into both the colonial tradition and his nation’s Iberian heritage, even as he invented pieces in keeping with the agenda of modern architecture. Thanks to this combination, he was one of the most emblematic figures of modern Brazilian furniture design.

In 1955, he founded OCA, a design studio whose name—the Portuguese word for an indigenous dwelling—attests to his intention to recover the spirit of simplicity of indigenous homes, integrating past and present in the material culture of Brazil. His studio supplied a great deal of the furniture used in the interiors of the buildings in Brazil’s newly founded capital, Brasilia. He also attracted middle-class clients eager for objects imbued with the effervescent spirit of a time when everything in Brazil was novo or new—from Bossa Nova to Cinema Novo.

From the beginning, Rodrigues’s chairs meant a break from elegant and well-behaved seating, anticipating the informality that would come to predominate in the homes of young middle-class intellectuals in the 1960s. His most celebrated creation, the 1957 Mole (Soft) armchair, reflects this radical approach. The robust piece has a solid rounded wood frame, leather straps, and an upholstered seat and armrest. It is an invitation to relax and even to snuggle, providing a comfort reminiscent of the hammock, a staple in the Brazilian home. In a book about furniture written in 1975, the sculptor Clement Meadmore called the Mole “one of the thirty most important seats produced in the twentieth century.” In 1961, it was awarded first prize at an international furniture competition held in Cantu, Italy, where it was renamed the Sheriff by Isa, a company from Bergamo, Italy, that began producing and exporting it to several countries.

Other key objects in Rodrigues’s career include the Mocho, a 1954 design based on a cow-milking stool; the Kilin lounge chair from 1973, another seat reminiscent of the hammock; the extremely comfortable Diz armchair designed in 2002, a piece made entirely of wood that evidences the designer’s maturity; and the Benjamin armchair, an earlier design that Rodrigues adapted for production purposes in 2013. Rodrigues created over 1,200 furniture projects, mostly chairs, over the course of his career.

Equally sociable, amiable, and blithe, Rodrigues was admired by all those who knew him. He never put on airs, and he was readily available to the flocks of young designers who looked to him for guidance and advice. He leaves behind many followers across Brazil.

Adelia Borges is a scholar and curator based in São Paulo. She is the chief curator for the next Brazilian Design Biennial, opening in May 2015.

Mary Lea Bandy, 1998. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

I FIRST MET Mary Lea Bandy shortly after she became head of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s film department in 1980. It was a strange meeting but not untypical of Mary Lea. I was an invited guest at a fabulous dinner in the loft she shared with her husband, Gary. We’d never actually been introduced, but she had invited me because the dinner was to celebrate a Douglas Sirk retrospective at MoMA, and she knew I’d been part of a full Sirk tribute mounted in Connecticut nearly a decade before. She acknowledged the early recognition with her own kind of recognition: a generous invitation to someone she didn’t really know, a warm welcome, and a plate of superb food. It was a glorious evening.

Mary Lea had all the attributes for success at MoMA: intelligence, knowledge, passion, a shrewd sense of politics, and a husband who could cook! When she was first named head of the museum’s prestigious film department, not many people knew her. By the time she retired, everyone knew her. She had brought new life to the department, opening it up, making it universally accessible. Under her guidance, MoMA became the first American institution to recognize the work of Clint Eastwood. She put forward the work of directors such as Raoul Walsh, actors such as Robert Mitchum, and actresses Audrey Hepburn and Gloria Grahame. She featured Italian cinema, silent cinema, transition-to-sound shorts, and her beloved westerns, always daring to be innovative and original and never following the dictates of the accepted canon. She became universally acknowledged for her work in preservation, her building of the MoMA storage center, her international service on film committees, her own incisive writing on film, and her decades-long fight to move film upward toward its rightful place of respect among the arts.

From left: Gary Bandy, Clint Eastwood, Frances Fisher, Mary Lea Bandy at “An Evening with Clint Eastwood,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 25, 1993. Photo: Star Black.

Over the years, Mary Lea and I became friends, and we shared a great many things: long, gossipy telephone conversations on Friday mornings, literally hundreds of screenings, and far too many boring meetings on various aspects of film. We attended events, coproduced an “American Masters” on Clint Eastwood, and worked together for three years on a PBS documentary titled American Cinema: 100 Years of Filmmaking.

Mary Lea was hardworking and focused, but she also had a great sense of humor and truly enjoyed life. We had so much fun together! I can picture us sitting on the floor of her office after a screening of the 1925 Pola Negri movie A Woman of the World, because we had been inspired to dig through books to look for everything we could find on the movie and its star. I can hear her debating the merits of El Dorado (1966), the Howard Hawks western, or telling me Ernst Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925) was her favorite silent film, and admitting how she had loved watching Beethoven, a 1992 movie about a big, slobbering Saint Bernard. I can remember tooling down a California highway at top speed with Mary Lea at the wheel of a rental car, on our way to visit the Eastwood set of Heartbreak Ridge (1986) at Camp Pendleton near San Diego. We were so busy debating the virtues of Frank Borzage movies that we missed our turnoff, ending up lost and hungry with nothing but a dubious roadside taco truck for sustenance. When I expressed my midwestern reservations about actually eating the food, Mary Lea admonished me with what I like to think of as her philosophy of moviegoing: “Oh, come on. Maybe it’ll be great! Let’s try it.” Whenever I approach a screening that I may be less than thrilled about, I can hear Mary Lea’s voice: “Maybe it’ll be great! Let’s try it.” It’s a good lesson to remember—thanks, Mary Lea.

Jeanine Basinger is Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and founder and curator of the Cinema Archives at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Pati Hill at Galerie Toner, Sens, France, circa 1999. Photo: Paul Bianchini.

PATI HILL offered at least two explanations for how she, a published writer in her fifties, started to experiment with the photocopier in the early 1970s. One recounts her surprise at noticing images of fingertips in the margins of her copied manuscripts. Another describes her impulse to use the machine to document a collection of household items before discarding them. Both stories convey a sensibility defined by a lifelong curiosity about the details of objects and phenomena and an instinct to describe them. From initially asking an attendant at a local copy shop to scan gloves, buttons, and small toys for her, Hill proceeded to placing such objects on the glass platen of the copier herself, however surreptitiously at first.

By 1977, thanks to a chance encounter with Charles Eames on a transatlantic flight, Hill, her husband (gallerist Paul Bianchini), and their teenage daughter were living with a state-of-the-art office copier on loan directly from IBM in their Stonington, Connecticut, home. Hill’s images of a dead swan (found on a nearby beach) made on that machine were included in a survey of copier works organized by the George Eastman House that traveled to the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City in 1980. Other examples of Hill’s work were later exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among other venues in Europe and the US.

Untrained as an artist, Hill was not alone in experimenting with what she called “a found instrument, a saxophone without directions” at a moment of unexpected possibility for this evolving communication technology. Nevertheless, her approach to the copier, coupled with her lucid and inspired writing about it, proved both singular and prescient, especially regarding the potential of self-publishing and image-sharing we experience today. Unlike many artists who flirted with this instant-duplication process—a medium whose affordability and use of plain paper made it revolutionary—Hill sustained her commitment to xerography (or “dry writing,” from the Greek) for forty years, never wavering from her aspiration to create works in which image and text might “fuse to become something other than either.”

Born in Kentucky and raised in Virginia, Hill spent much of her twenties as a fashion model and on occasion posed for her close friend Diane Arbus, then working as a commercial photographer. Eventually finding herself in Paris, Hill abandoned modeling to live in the French countryside, where she wrote a memoir (The Pit and Century Plant, 1955) and her first novel (The Nine Mile Circle, 1957), both celebrated for their sensitivity, charm, and natural prose. She also contributed an essay, short stories, and an interview with Truman Capote to the Paris Review.

Hill’s interest in uniting image and text materialized with her first volume of poems, The Snow Rabbit. Illustrated by the poet Galway Kinnell, the book was published in 1962, the year Hill’s daughter was born. Her next work, Slave Days, did not appear until 1975. Produced with the support of James Merrill, it featured twenty-nine poems paired with photocopies of small domestic objects—a cookie cutter, an eraser, ball and jacks, etc.—all reproduced at exactly life scale, one of the many attributes of the process Hill appreciated. Her use of pictures to “extend” her texts, rather than illustrate them, was perhaps most conspicuously realized in Impossible Dreams (1976). The last of Hill’s four novels, it includes forty-eight photographs appropriated with permission from an eclectic range of sources, including Robert Doisneau and Ralph Gibson. Unified by Hill’s photocopying and uniform use of full-page bleeds, every image in this book assumes an oblique equivalence to the text it faces in a manner that still feels ahead of its time.

Spread from New Letters, Volume 43, Issue 1 (1976). Pati Hill, “Six Photocopied Garments,” as documented in Letters to Jill: a catalogue and some notes on copying, 1979, Kornblee. 

Hill’s use of the IBM Copier II distinguished her work. By spooning toner into the machine in quantities not possible at local copy shops—nor advisable by the manufacturer—Hill obtained rich blacks that bear comparison with charcoal drawings and the linear precision of etchings. She also relished the Copier II’s flaws, such as the tiny white spots this model sometimes dispersed across the surfaces of its prints where specks of the powdered ink failed to adhere to the paper.

Hill’s writing about her efforts with the device, along with her attempt to invent a universal hieroglyphic language, are sampled in Letters to Jill: a catalogue and some notes on copying (1979). Published by Jill Kornblee, the New York gallerist who gave Hill numerous solo exhibitions in the ’70s, the book not only serves as a concise survey of the first phase of Hill’s copier work but stands as a jargon-free primer on medium specificity. In it, she articulates, for example, the way the copier differentiates itself from the camera. “Your object is your negative,” Hill states, a proposition that reorients our understanding of lens-based depiction while placing her practice within a broader context that includes Anna Atkins’s nineteenth-century cyanotypes of algae and Man Ray’s photograms.

The objects Hill chose to copy, which she could not fully ascertain until the machine had seen them, are visually transformed yet faithfully convey their intrinsic properties, as well as those of the copier. “It repeats my words perfectly as many times as I ask it to,” Hill wrote, “but when I show it a hair curler, it hands me back a space ship, and when I show it the inside of a straw hat it describes the eerie joys of a descent into a volcano.” Hill’s research with the machine assumed the nature of a conversation, if not a partnership. (She commented on how its “responsiveness” was one of the things women like about the device.) Despite this collaboration, Hill admitted to allowing the copier to “dominate” her work, suggesting that her “literal use” of the equipment was due to “having come to copying from writing.”

Pati Hill, detail from A Swan: An Opera in Nine Chapters, 1978, installation of thirty-four captioned black and white photocopies, dimensions variable.

With the exception of the swan, her subjects in the ’70s were no larger than sheets of copier paper and to some extent represent a class of objects she believed the machine to be best at portraying. “A copier works like a magnet, attracting or rejecting things,” she told the New Yorker in 1980, the year she moved to Paris intent on “photocopying Versailles,” an ambition that emerged from her desire to work with an expansive subject that was consciously at odds with the constraints of the copier. She began with small, portable subjects there, ranging from a nearly weightless bellpull to cobblestones held just above the platen (lest they should crash through the glass) and went on to scan an espaliered pear tree, including its roots and the ants living inside them. Obtained in the middle of winter from a nursery on the site, the tree bloomed unexpectedly once she brought it into her studio, making it impossible for Hill to cut the plant into pieces as she initially intended. This effort marked the beginning of the production of large-scale works—prints arranged in grids, often made with colored toner—that document the details of the palace, its grounds, and fountains. The works resulting from this five-year process were later shown at Versailles itself as well as Sens, where she eventually settled in the ’90s. There, with assistance from her husband Paul and mindful of the democratic idealism that marked the first generation of artists associated with the medium, Hill found ways to exhibit and publish the copier work of veteran practitioners and novices alike.

Richard Torchia is director of Arcadia University Art Gallery in Glenside, Pennsylvania. He is currently organizing a touring exhibition of Hill’s black-and-white work from the 1970s that will open in the spring of 2016.

Rosemary Mayer with her work Ghosts, 1981.

ROSEMARY WAS MY CLASSMATE in Mr. Bageris’s drawing course, in my second year at the School of Visual Arts in the fall semester of 1967. We met at its first class meeting. I sat down next to her because I noticed that she was reading Goethe’s Elective Affinities (1809) while we were waiting for Mr. Bageris to start the class. She was the only student in the class reading a book. As I had just finished it, I asked her whether she was enjoying it. She said she was finding it a bit dry, and much preferred The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). I hadn’t read Werther, but I wrote down the title, and later did read it because of her recommendation.

I had not yet figured out how to be both an artist and an intellectual. The problem was one of clashing role models. Whereas my artist heroes were the likes of Honoré Daumier, Vincent Van Gogh, and Auguste Rodin, my intellectual heroes included figures like Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ralph Ellison. Actually all of them have a lot more in common than I realized at the time. In those days I could not yet find a way to be all of them. I learned how to do that from Rosemary.

She had just arrived at SVA, where she was immediately promoted to the second year on the strength of her artwork. Shortly before, she had refused Harvard University’s offer of a graduate fellowship to do a doctorate in the classics department. She had been the first woman student (or one of the first) to be so honored. But at that time she was married to a poet who, she said, had prevailed upon her to become an artist instead. Once I met her husband, Vito Acconci, I could imagine that dialogue, and the intensity with which it must have been conducted. The result was a body of work that was in love with the physical properties of materials, textures, cloths, and their exploration, but that easily cohabited with a serious and highly developed intellectual life. She was a voracious reader of literature, criticism, and the classics, and fluent in Greek and Latin. It never would have occurred to her to not read Goethe in a drawing class.

Nor did she feel even the slightest pressure to show off her figurative draftsmanship in a painting class. Instead she submitted for presentation and discussion two large, companion hard-edge Minimalist/Color Field paintings, based on a combinatorial system she had devised. For the first, she divided the surface of the canvas into a grid, bisecting each square cell diagonally to form two triangles. She determined the color of each triangle by combining the primary colors in couplets, mixing them, and recursively applying the same combinatorial formula to each resulting color, for each successive cell. For the second, she repeated the operation, except she began with a different combination of primary colors in the first cell, which determined a different succession of colors for the rest of them. But here she constructed each cell as a separate stretched canvas that she affixed to all of the others at the back of the frames with small hand vises, thus replicating in individual cell modules the same geometric grid in the second painting that she had drawn onto the surface of the first.

When it came time for her presentation, she quietly and casually explained the system. Basta. No pomp, no bluster, no hot air, not a word about inner turmoil, creative agony, or grappling with the existential and metaphysical issues the rest of us deployed in order to protect our frail creations and enhance the impression we wished to convey of ourselves as serious artists. Her manner of presenting her work to us took for granted that we all had read and thought as much about art as she had, and had the same sophisticated understanding of it, although that was not true. She completely knocked me out, and traumatized the rest of our classmates. But her effect on us didn’t feed or flatter or inflate her. She remained, as always, quiet, clipped, self-contained and shy, with a surprisingly mordant sense of humor. I learned a great deal about contemporary art and art theory from talking to her.

She herself was not a Conceptual artist and didn’t much care for Conceptual art. But I could not have developed my own work in that direction without having absorbed her cool detachment and deep intellectual engagement in the artistic process. That informed stance, that complex psychological attitude toward art would not have occurred to me without her example.

Adrian Piper is an artist and philosopher based in Berlin.

Slyvia Sleigh, A portrait of Rosemary Mayer, 1978, postcard of an oil on canvas painting, 36 x 24”.

ROSEMARY MAYER has been part of my life since I was born. There weren’t many books in our house, so we went to the library and attempted to introduce our parents to Greek mythology. Though this was before Conceptual art, Rosemary carved her initials in the furniture and then changed them to mine so I’d get blamed. It worked.

Because we went to Saint Matthias grammar school on Catalpa Avenue where the school sisters of Notre Dame taught, we got scholarships to Saint Saviour High School of Brooklyn, which was more like a college. Recently I got a condolence note from a friend from there who identified Rosemary as an upperclassman. I wondered why she didn’t say woman.

Rosemary eventually married Vito Acconci in Saint Matthias Church: I don’t know why. She helped Vito and me produce the magazine 0 To 9 and was in some of the issues. We made them at my boyfriend’s father’s office in Newark, New Jersey, which had a mimeograph machine. We did it while the office was closed for the night.

Rosemary turned down an offer to study classics at Harvard so she could pursue visual art, going on to make sculptures and watercolors. My favorite work of hers was her snow sculptures of women made at the library yard in Lenox, Mass. I loved the evanescence of her work.

Rosemary Mayer, Some Days in April, 1978, advertising balloons, inks, helium, fabrics, dimensions variable. Installation view, Hartwick, New York.

Rosemary translated and published Pontormo’s Diary (Out of London Press, 1979), wrote Surroundings, an issue of Art-Rite, and appeared in the anthology Individuals: Post-Movement Art in America (1977) edited by Alan Sondheim.

Rosemary created a beautiful cover for United Artists Magazine No. 18. She designed the covers of my books Moving (1971) and Poetry (1976). For Poetry, she made a great drawing of our house in Ridgewood, Brooklyn/Queens, New York. Rosemary went on to illustrate Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the history of the women of the Roman Empire.

She lived for forty years in a loft on Leonard Street in Manhattan, where she had seven desks, each for a different purpose. She had great dinner parties and made a book outlining the foods served and the people attending. In that loft Rosemary also grew a garden, mostly from avocado pits. But the landlord wanted to get everyone out, so he made things difficult for the tenants.

Rosemary Mayer, Noise Drawings, 2011, pastel on paper, 26 x 40”.

Rosemary was nothing if not astute. A student said to listen to her speak about color and paper was staggering. She was a professor of art at LaGuardia Community College, where she taught for twenty years, and of writing at Long Island University Brooklyn.

My house is now filled with her works including one of her Amphorae sculptures. I am grateful to Rosemary for making the Hesiod volume of the Loeb Classics fall from the shelves, enabling me to make the title for my next book Works and Days. And also for turning my gingko tree yellow for the first time.

Hail and farewell Rosemary
I’m drinking the last of the wine
In a toast to you
The trees are looking cold and leafless
As if somebody has died

Bernadette Mayer is a poet based in upstate New York.

SO WE'RE ON A PLANE to the Venice (architecture) biennale, a sort of long overdue honeymoon, so long that it includes our 7 year old son, and my wife is glued to her phone as usual, thumbs flying. Suddenly she is still. She starts weeping. I ask her what’s the matter. By now she is sobbing. She just says: Eric Kahn.

For most of Eric Kahn’s life and career the juxtaposition of his name and her manner would have been unthinkable. He was a god of joy and fierce seeker of beauty—sadness was banished from his presence. But I know by her look what has happened without her saying because over the year and a half preceding his death all that had changed. He had come to the hard realization that Architecture is ultimately a community property and that the discipline is promiscuous. And so his expected eventual legacy of boundless delight has instead become an immediate cautionary tale about the illusion of continuity and the cheapening of the surprise that constancy guaranteed.

Eric was an architect and an artist. Many architects also make “art,” and this is even expected of famous practitioners. Sometimes this material deserves attention on its own merits, but more often its value is determined by the status of its author as an architect and the recognizability of his or her signature. Eric was such an exception to this rule that it is almost impossible to decide the order of precedence in his two practices. In the end, though, after a dark year in the wilderness as a fugitive from the soulless Snapchat favoritism of the academy, and utterly undone by disappointment in a field increasingly drunk on the hard koolaid of easy digital dodges, Eric decided for himself to switch these labels, and declare himself the artist he had always been. He took a trip to New York and visited the studios of artists he admired, like Ross Bleckner, to prepare for the new life he would make for himself, out of architecture. He died a week after this trip.

Eric graduated from Cal Poly SLO in 1981 with a Bachelors of Architecture—a seriously vocational degree—but then he reversed field and went to study in Italy and work for the conceptual architecture firm Superstudio. When he returned to the states he reconciled these poles, working in Los Angeles with Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi on important early works of the Morphosis office. At the same time he began a parallel academic career, teaching at SCI-Arc, his eventual Calvary, remaining there until he just couldn’t take it any more, a year before his death.

IDEA Office, Y House, 2009, Tokyo.

In 1988 he established his own firm with his longtime teaching partner Russell Thomsen and his classmate Ron Golan, and a series of compelling projects followed at intervals over the years, including the Brix restaurant in Marina Del Rey and several residences in LA and New York, culminating with the acclaimed “Y House” in Tokyo. Since 2009 he and Thomsen had been working on an intensely personal conceptual project for Auschwitz that offered a suitable canvas for his passion.

A monograph of their work together was published in 1997. Their work has been exhibited and published internationally, and is part of the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Before his withdrawal from the academy and architecture Eric had been working on another monograph of recent work of the office entitled Driven By Dilemma, and a personal volume he called Proof of Architecture.

While he did fit some conventional labels, with an architectural practice and a partner, a loving devoted wife and dutiful son, as well as lots and lots of students, all whom he loved, before everything else he was a maker. He brought stuff into the world. His manner of bringing was ancient: like the first artist, he discovered his works. He found stuff in the corners of the cave, in the folds of the rock, teased out by the shadows from the torch, and then he tweaked it, buffed it, and presented it as a marvel, something precious to be studied, respected and loved. Eric was astonished by beauty everywhere, at all scales and in all media, whether it came from a ruined scrap of advertising or a shiny new building, a coffee ring or wine stain, the play of light on a newly plastered wall or the sight of my wife, decked out in a flowered sun dress: towards the end he was posting hundreds of instagram photos a week as if he knew time was short.

It was a thrill to watch him work: we are at lunch, he notices a wrinkle on the tablecloth while we are talking. He pulls out a notebook and pencil. He starts with a searching kind of line, feeling out the wrinkle, the pencil held loosely at the end. His hand makes a few passes until the line discovers itself and takes over. Then the hand pulls away to marvel, as if to say: look at this: I bet you didn’t see that coming.

We think of artists as willful but Eric’s practice was more collaborative, a conversation between the emergent piece and the maker. Heidegger describes artists as the ones most attuned to hearing the disclosure of Being, the best at listening and letting beings Be. Eric often referenced “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” in his teaching despite his understandably complicated feelings about the guy. In another lecture, Heidegger characterized art as a “way of revealing,” saying that amidst our general forgetfulness art might be the only reminder of the original sense of Being, as it was experienced in the west by the ancient Greeks who, not yet encumbered by the long history of western metaphysics that they initiated, first witnessed its remarkable appearance. But this awareness can be recovered, Heidegger figured, by those few artists who allowed their work to become a collaborative contest between what they thought they wanted and what the work itself revealed.

The line first appeared to the artist’s hand, which gave meaning to the work in appreciation. As an architect, Eric had always taken that meaning for granted, and felt the challenge was to keep open the space of revealing. But new digital tools were taking over the schools and undermining both that meaning and the hand discovering it. The community—stewards of the discipline—heedlessly followed these tools, institutionalizing the discoveries Eric nurtured into a sterile, meaningless difference, easy and alien. Architecture had stopped being constant and it was too late for art to save him.

Wes Jones is an architect, educator, author, and was a founding partner of Holt Hinshaw Pfau Jones, in 1987, and Jones, Partners: Architecture in 1993.