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Remembering the Art World Figures Lost in 2022

In 2022, we lost painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and writers who taught us how to identify art and think about art; how to vanquish tradition with defiant forms of expression.

Sam Gilliam, the unmatched colorist who died in June, propelled abstraction off the wall and into the third dimension with his grand draped canvases. Jean-Luc Godard, whose passing in September was lamented as the end of epoch, broke the conventions of film to create radical takes on consumerism, human connection, and moviemaking itself.

Other revolutions were less flashy: Peter Schjeldahl, the revered art critic of the New Yorker, died in October, leaving behind an indispensable collection of reviews, poems, and essays. Aspiring writers have found, will always find, their ambitions transformed by his imagination and inexhaustible enthusiasm for contemporary art as it is, and as it could be.

In one of his great critical feats, Schjeldahl reviewed the art of dying. “Death is like painting rather than like sculpture, because it’s seen from only one side,” he wrote. What endures are the words and works in sight.

Hunter Reynolds, an artist and activist whose work influenced generations and poignantly reflected on the immense loss wrought by the AIDS crisis, died on June 12 at 62.