Photo: Detail from the cover of Surfer magazine.
2017 has seen the passing of so many inspiring artists and visionaries whose work continues to brighten our lives although they are long longer here to share it with us. In tribute, we honor the bold and the brilliant people whose spirit continues to shine a light through the dark.
Chuck Barris (June 3, 1929 – March 21, 2017) was an American game show creator, producer, and host, as well as author and quite possible CIA agent – according to his book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Best known for The Dating Game, The Newlywed Show, and The Gong Show, Barris also claims to have worked for the CIA, which the agency vigorously denied. But above all things, Barris wanted to be remembered as the spectacular author that he was. Read the full tribute.
Arlene Gottfried (August 26, 1951 – August 8, 2017) was an American photographer who documented her native New York City for more than four decades, walking its streets to capture the stunning and surreal sights of everyday people living the life. The author of five books including Crave fave Bacalaitos y Fireworks (powerHouse Books) Gottfried was an unparalleled portraitist with an eye for the extraordinary. Read our 2016 interview.
Jay Lynch (January 7, 1945 – March 5, 2017) was an American cartoonist who played a major role in the underground comix movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. But it was his Garbage Pail Kids of the 1980s that brought him mainstream success, cleverly parodying the cult of the Cabbage Patch Kids to subversive effect. “It’s all quite ironic: Rebellious cartoonists mocking consumer culture were inadvertently producing collectible artifacts for the same consumer culture 40 years down the road,” The New York Times quotes Lynch as saying. Read the full tribute.
Lorraine Montenegro (June 4, 1943 – October 1, 2017) was a Puerto Rican activist who died on the island she loved in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Montenegro was the daughter of Dr. Evelina Antonetty aka “The Hell Lady of the Bronx,” and together they fought City Hall – and won. They established United Bronx Parents in the mid-1960s, helping Bronx residents deal with the challenges of systemic abuse in the poorest Congressional district in the entire nation. Montenegro was also the mother of Crave fave photographer Joe Conzo, who documented the Hip Hop and Latinx legends of the Bronx. David Gonzalez tells her story beautifully in The New York Times.
Charlie Murphy (July 12, 1959 – April 12, 2017) was an American actor, comedian, and writer best known for “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” on Chapelle’s Show As Eddie Murphy’s older brother, Charlie was privy to the shenaninans of the demi-monde during the 1980s – and he ain’t forget a thing about his run-ins with the likes of Prince and Rick James. He also appeared in films such as Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, CB4, The Player’s Club, went on to do the voice of Ed Wuncler III for 10 episodes of The Boondocks, as well as star as Victor “Vic” Hargrove, the salty landlord in Black Jesus. Read the full tribute.
Jon Naar (May 5, 1920 – November 30, 2017) was born in London but made it big in New York, first with his portraits of artists in their surroundings, then with his legendary 1974 book, The Faith of Graffiti, the first monograph to examine the subject as a form of art. His historic photographs were included in Wall Writers, the seminal film, book, and traveling exhibition documenting the first generation of graff writers, which you can read in full here.
Glenn O’Brien (March 2, 1947 – April 7, 2017) was an American writer, editor, and renegade best known as “The Style Guy,” at GQ magazine. But to those who lived and loved below 14th Street, he will always be so much more than that – whether you remember him his iconoclastic public access show, TV Party, his work on the film Downtown 81, his collaboration with Madonna for her notorious book Sex, or the bon mots he dropped whenever he opened his mouth. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said, “I used to date Grace Jones,” and I slapped the table and said, “You did not!” Read the full tribute.
George Pitts (died March 4, 2017) was an American artist, editor, teacher, and visionary who left behind a legacy that goes far beyond the scope of his work. As the founding Photography Director of Vibe magazine from 1993 to 2004, Pitts was one of the most influential figures of the era as he showed music as part of a larger culture and history, one that was as much a look as it was a sound.
While he manned the helm, Pitts ushered in a new era of talent, giving young artists, illustrators, and fashion stylists their big break. The list is as astounding as the artwork itself. Pitts seamlessly mixed talents like Andrew Dosunmu, Hype Williams, Jonathan Mannion, Ben Watts, and Eric Johnson with Juergen Teller, Bruce Weber, David LaChapelle, Mary Ellen Mark, and Ellen von Unwerth. Read the full tribute.
John Severson (December 12, 1933 – May 26, 2017) was an American artist, writer, filmmaker, and founder of Surfer magazine, who is considered the pioneer of modern surf culture. Severson grew up riding the waves of Southern California on a redwood board and honed his talents while stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, as a member of the Army surf team from 1956-58.
He then returned to California where he launched Surfer, the first major magazine devoted to the sport, in 1962. As an independent publisher, Severson did it all, from writing and editing to photographing, designing, and art direction. The magazine went from an annual to a quarterly, and finally went monthly on a shoestring budget. All that mattered for Severson was staying true. Read the full tribute.
Daniele Tamagni (1975 – December 23, 2017) was an Italian photographer and author hailing from Milan who became famous for his portraits of Congolese dandies collected in the 2009 book, Gentlemen of Bacongo (Trolley Books). THe winner of the 2010 ICP Infinity Award for fashion photography, Tamagni continued to document street style around the globe with his books Fashion Tribes (Abrams), Global Style Battles (Editions La Découverte), and Mtindo (Skira). For more about his work, check out our review of his exhibition with James Barnor at October Gallery.
Judge Joseph Wapner (November 15, 1919 – February 26, 2017) was an American judge and star of The People’s Court, the first courtroom reality show on television. From 1981 to 1993, Judge Wapner taped more than 2,3000 half-hour long episodes, becoming the face of justice in the mainstream media.
In 1986, Wapner explained the appeal of The People’s Court to the Associated Press, observing, “Everything on the show is real. There’s no script, no rehearsal, no retakes. Everything form beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case a trial. Sometimes I don’t even deliberate. I just decide from the bench, it’s so obvious. The beautiful part is that I have carte blanche.” Read the full tribute.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue, Dazed, AnOther Man, Aperture, and The Undefeated. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.