I certainly wasn’t intending to give the impression that I’m writing an “obituaries blog” but some very important artistic figures have died recently, and in the cases of Ricard and Hoffman, although I never met either personally, both took up a huge amount of space in my cultural imagination. Of the two, Hoffman would need little introduction for anyone remotely familiar with the last couple of decades of Hollywood cinema, and he is already being proclaimed as “greatest actor of his generation.” Such superlatives are meaningless, especially now, but I would agree with that assessment. I spent many hours wading through almost every movie he made over the years, even if awful, just considering that his mere involvement would likely make it worth my time. Ricard was far less known in the wider circles of popular culture but an integral figure in the New York art world as a critic and poet, and in more recent years as a painter who inscribed poetic phrases onto his canvases. His 1981 essay “The Radiant Child” is one of the most memorable pieces on artists Keith Haring and Jean Michel-Basquiat. I had the fortunate opportunity to write on Ricard for a catalogue of a 2005 exhibition entitled Sad Songs curated by artist Bill Conger and wrote: “These recent paintings are inscribed with breathless anecdotes, as if Haikus hastily scrawled in lipstick onto a bathroom mirror. While artists today are frequently at odds with painting, Ricard offers paintings at odds with themselves, as if deciding whether to be texts, images, or from a distance appealingly bright, monochromatic ciphers. … The poet has always been brutally confessional in his writings, but this approach is often leavened with an unlikely degree of tenderness. Ricard is often abrasive yet the confirmed aesthete.” Given the wild circles that Ricard travelled with over the years—Warhol’s Factory and the East Village Scene—his death of cancer at the age of 67 effectively means he outlived so many of his contemporaries, while Hoffman, purportedly dead of a drug overdose, at the age of 46 has died prematurely, terribly, and avoidably. Read Ricard’s writings, watch Hoffman’s filmography. Both are revelatory.
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