Richard Milazzo is a critic, curator, publisher, independent scholar and poet.
He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College, with a B.A., in 1972, and from City College of New York, with an M.A., in 1975. After being accepted in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to pursue a doctoral degree in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York in 1977, he attended City University from 1977 to 1980, “where he studied theories of formal systems,” mostly in the fields of logic and literature.
Taken from a forthcoming autobiographical text, We Are All Beautifully Damaged, about his education, the author writes: “Basically, I saw my formal education mostly as a way out – of the Housing Projects – and all that went with that. At Franklin and Marshall College, I studied the Russian and East European avant-garde with Samuel E. Allen, a Professor of History and a profoundly gay, eloquent, brilliant Black man from Virginia who knew an abundance of languages fluently (among them Russian and French) – many of whose ontological features were not exactly prescribed at the time, those being predominantly the fact that he was gay, Black, from the South, and who was not only outspoken but whose every speech act, from the smallest syllable to the most complex of syntactical utterances, was glamorously orchestrated – and who I believe may have been among the earliest victims of AIDS at the very beginning of the ’80s. But I believe my truest and deepest education came in the form of picking off the college bookstore shelves any book published by Grove Press and New Directions, but particularly Grove during those four years living in isolation in Lancaster, Pa. With the exception of Peter R. Young, a Chinese-American and a librarian at Franklin & Marshall, who was a Vietnam War vet and who eventually became Chief of the Asian Division at the Library of Congress and the best man at my wedding in 1982, and a very few fellows (F&M at the time was an all-boys institution) I can hardly recall, the authors of Grove Press were my closest companions. You cannot imagine the honor and pleasure it was, so many years later, for me to become close friends with Barney Rosset, the publisher of Grove Press, a precious friendship that would last for the last twenty or so years of his life.
“After living in Minneapolis – an absurd thing to do, because it was where Robert Zimmerman was born and John Berryman, the great contemporary sonneteer, died by throwing himself off a bridge – and Chicago briefly (because I had had enough of New York City, but couldn’t risk not living in a big city), and in Boston for nearly two years (where I ‘lived’ in the Museum of Fine Arts library, studying the history of Modern Art on my own, wrongly disdaining the work of Robert Lowell, who would die only a few years later, in 1977, and favoring instead the more rarefied aesthetic of Rainer Maria Rilke), I graduated from City College of New York, but not without becoming obsessed with Wittgenstein’s broomstick philosophy of cleaning house, and studying still another sonneteer, Guido Cavalcanti (Dante’s sidekick), and writing my thesis on Ezra Pound’s Cantos, despite having studied with Alfred Kazin, whom I admired begrudgingly, having worn his ideology on his sleeve. At Columbia University, I audited several courses, unofficially, including one on Celine and depravity taught by Julia Kristeva.
“At City University, I studied theories of formal systems relating to logic and allegory with Professors Raymond Smullyan and Angus Fletcher, respectively, although the magical games of chess and mathematics seemed forever to allude me. Nevertheless, apart from his anti-semitism and his paranoia, Bobby Fischer’s ‘two pawns to the side’ and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, like the writings of the pre-Socratics, fueled my imagination, as did Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle at the time. (I think they still do.) I’m not sure Professor Smullyan was an albino, but his hair and features were as long and white as a snowdrift, and he seemed to come down from a mountain in upstate New York (or some similar god-forsakened place), like Nietszche’s Zarathustra, to teach us in the benighted pornography- and drug-riddled village of 42nd St. and Times Square below; and Professor Fletcher’s ideas and speech intonations were so mesmering I hardly noticed how utterly Celtic he was. He, too, seemed to have descended from some higher place to instruct us in the mysterious ways of an Unworld.
”In the end, the whole Holden Cauldfield / Catcher in the Rye thing caught up with me and I simply couldn’t bring myself to complete the doctorate, even though I was one Latin exam and a dissertation away from becoming a doctor who had not taken the Hippocratic oath and who couldn’t help or didn’t really want to help anyone, much less teach anything. I simply grew to despise academia, and the intellectual and ideological mannequins it seemed to breed, with few exceptions. Independent thinking was hardly encouraged, much less recognized, regardless the few curt exceptions.”
“One word about the Catcher in the Rye remark: the school I had tranferred to, McBurney, ceased to exist in 1988, but was absurdly memorialized in a mention by J.D. Salinger in said novel. Without this mention, I am not sure anyone would even remember McBurney ever existed, I mean apart from the YMCA. While I admired immensely the novel’s delinquent character, Holden, the closest I came to precocious was unrelentingly suspicious.”
In the mid-1970s, Richard Milazzo became the editor and co-publisher of Out of London Press. Among the books he edited were The Syntactic Revolution: Collected Writings of Abraham Lincoln Gillespie (New York, 1980) and the first English facsimile edition of Pontormo’s Diary, translated by Rosemary Mayer (New York, 1982). Other titles included the first monograph on Vito Acconci by Mario Diacono, Discussion by Annina Nosei-Weber and Robert Pincus-Witten’s Postminimalism. In 1981, he co-edited La rosa disabitata 1960-1980 for Feltrinelli, one of the first anthologies to document the post-Gertrude Stein ‘Language’ writing movement in America, which included the writings of Vito Acconci, Charles Bernstein, John Cage, Clark Coolidge, Lyn Hejinian, Dick Higgins, Frank Kuenstler, Jackson Mac Low, Bob Perelman, Bern Porter and Jerome Rothenberg.
In 1982, he began working in New York and internationally as a critic and curator in the art world. His exhibitions and critical writings with Collins & Milazzo brought to prominence a whole new generation of artists in the 1980s. It was their exhibitions and writings that originally fashioned the theoretical context for a new kind of Conceptual Art that they theorized as Post-Appropriation. While making the case for this kind of art, they argued against both Neo-Expressionism and Picture Theory art. It was specifically through this post-critical appoach, generating a synthetical post-dialectical condition for art (see their book [in two volumes], comprised of the lectures they delivered at Yale, Hyperframes: A Post-Appropriation Discourse in Art), that the work of many of the artists associated with what others described simply as Neo-Conceptualism (and still other critics reductively called “Simulationism” and “Neo Geo”) was first brought together – artists such as Ross Bleckner, James Welling, Peter Nadin, Kevin Larmon, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, Peter Nagy, Sarah Charlesworth, Mark Innerst, Gretchen Bender, Allan McCollum, Peter Halley, Jonathan Lasker, Haim Steinbach, Jeff Koons, Philip Taaffe, Robert Gober, Not Vital, Saint Clair Cemin, and Annette Lemieux. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Collins & Milazzo would support such artists as Sal Scarpitta, Meg Webster, Lawrence Carroll, Vik Muniz, Fabian Marcaccio, and Alessandro Twombly, as part of this Post-Appropriation discourse. He would later go on to support the work of Elliot Schwartz, Bill Rice, Michel Frère, and write books and catalogues and curate shows with Malcolm Morley, Robert Longo, Alex Katz, David Salle, William Anastasi, Joel Fisher, among others.
In the early 1980s, he co-published and co-edited Effects: Magazine for New Art Theory in the East Village, and from 1986 to 1988 he was the American co-editor of Kunstforum (Cologne). Among the many publications of those years were Radical Consumption and the New Poverty (New York: New Observations, 1987); Art at the End of the Social (Malmö, Sweden: The Rooseum, 1988); and Hyperframes: A Post-Appropriation Discourse in Art, the lectures they delivered as Senior Critics at Yale University in 1988 and 1989. The lectures were originally published in 1989 and 1990 in two volumes in a bilingual English and French edition in Paris, with Editions Antoine Candau, and became known as the “Green Books.” They were recently reissued in an Italian edition, compiled by GianCarlo Pagliasso and published by Campanotto Editore in Udine, in 2005. The third volume of these lectures (in the original English) remains unpublished. He co-organized the CHANGE, INC., Benefit for Robert Rauschenberg in New York in 1990, and co-edited An Anthology of Statements Celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of White Columns for White Columns in 1991.
He co-curated and curated exhibitions in such galleries and museums as Nature Morte (NY), International with Monument (NY), White Columns (NY), C.A.S.H./Newhouse (NY), Postmasters (NY), Tibor De Nagy (NY), Diane Brown (NY), CEPA (Buffalo, NY), Margo Leavin (Los Angeles, CA), S.L. Simpson (Toronto, Canada), American Fine Arts Co. (NY), Massimo Audiello (NY), Lia Rumma (Naples, Italy), Galerie Albrecht (Munich, Germany), John Gibson (NY), 303 Gallery (NY), the Rooseum (Malmö, Sweden), Meyers/Bloom (Santa Monica, CA), Greenberg/Wilson (NY), Tony Shafrazi (NY), Sidney Janis (NY), Fay Gold (Atlanta, GA), The Hopper House (NY), Annina Nosei (NY), Emilio Mazzoli (Modena, Italy), James Danziger (NY), and Alain Noirhomme (Brussels, Belgium), among others. Interviews with and writings on Collins & Milazzo’s critical and curatorial work have appeared in Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Arts Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Artscribe International, Village Voice, Art & Auction, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Criterion, II Giornale dell’Arte, The New York Times Magazine, HG, New Art Examiner, Galeries Magazine, Flash Art, among others.
He has taught, read, or participated in symposia and lectured at the University of Chicago (“‘Donna me prega’: Modern Poetry and Its Context”), Yale University (on Lacan), The Maryland Institute and College of Arts, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Tisch School of the Arts (New York University), The Museum of Modern Art (“Contemporary Art in Context”) in New York, The Glassell School of Art (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas), National Museum of American Art (Smithsonian Institute), Columbia University (New York), Jan van Eyck Akademie (Maastricht, Belgium), The Ghent Academy (Belgium), the High Museum (Atlanta, Georgia), among many others.
He delivered the lecture “Rhetorical Answers: Curating and the Practice of Criticism” at The Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the Lecture Series “Between Art and Life,” in celebration of Robert Rauschenberg’s receiving The Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. He has also lectured to Sotheby’s “Connoisseurship in Contemporary Art” seminar, and delivered a paper to the symposium, “The Convergence of Art and Philosophy,” with Jean Baudrillard, Joseph Kosuth and Peter Halley, at ICASA, New York University. He has also delivered a lecture on the work of Jeff Koons, “Against Interpretation; or, the Decline of Abstraction in Contemporary Sculpture,” at the New York Studio School; a series of six lectures on Philip Taaffe at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia; a paper on poetics, “A Poem is Political, How?” at Stony Brook University; and a talk recently at the School of Continuing Education, New York University, entitled “Jeff Koons: Shiny on the Outside, Hollow on the Inside,” which was subsequently published in two parts at hyperallergic (Weekend). He has given poetry readings at Beyond Baroque Foundation, Venice, CA.; Cornelia Street Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club, and the Russian Tea Room, in New York; and, most recently, at the Fondazione Gesualdo Bufalino, Comiso, Sicily.
In the 1990s, he co-curated the New Era Space in New York, a three-month project sponsored by Leo Castelli, which took place from October to December 1991, and included the one-person shows for the following 15 artists: James Hill, Harland Miller, Donna Moylan, Jeffrey Plate, Adam Rolston; Robert Beck and Jeff Litchfield, Billy Copley, Joo Chung, Nancy M. Hoffman, Nicholas Howey; Robert Burke, Tony Feher, Fabian Marcaccio, Joan Snitzer, Tyler Turkle. He curated an exhibition space he founded, 11, rue Larrey at Sidney Janis Gallery, and co-founded, with Howard B. Johnson and Joy L. Glass, and edits the publishing house, Edgewise Press. In 1996, he curated Realism After Seven A.M.: Realist Painting After Edward Hopper – An Exhibition of 25 Artists in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Hopper House; and, in 1998, he organized an art auction and benefit exhibition to relaunch Barney Rosset’s Evergreen Review on line. He has curated, both in the United States and Europe, one-person exhibitions of the works of Malcolm Morley, Ross Bleckner, Sandro Chia, Abraham David Christian, Robert Longo, Saint Clair Cemin, Alessandro Twombly, Bill Rice, David Salle, Alex Katz, Mark Innerst, William Anastasi and Peter Nagy. He has written the major monographs, Saint Clair Cemin: Sculptor from Cruz Alta (New York: Brent Sikkema Editions, 2005) and The Paintings of Ross Bleckner (Brussels: Editions Alain Noirhomme, 2007). For Edgewise he has recently co-published, edited, and with introductions, Ross Bleckner’s Examined Life: Writings 1972-2007; Peter Halley: Selected Essays 1981-2001 and Donald Baechler’s Victim of Improvement: Telegrams, Stories, Letters, Monologues, Interviews, 1985-2006. Recently, he has edited, for Lucio Pozzi’s new online magazine, OBSzine, an issue entitled Art, Poetry, and the Pathos of Communication, with contributions by Brunella Antomarini, Donald Baechler, Bruce Benderson, Costanza Berardi, Ilya Bernstein, Ross Bleckner, James Brown, Edward Burns, Lawrence Carroll, Peter Carravetta, Saint Clair Cemin, Sandro Chia, Abraham David Christian, Kevin Clarke, Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts, Colette, David Deutsch, Chris Dorland, Samantha Dietmar, Carmen Firan, Joel Fisher, Peter Halley, Susan Hefuna, George Hildrew, Jeff Koons, Wayne Koestenbaum, Jonathan Lasker, Annette Lemieux, Robert Longo, Andrew McCarron, Donna Moylan, Vik Muniz, Peter Nadin, Peter Nagy, Aga Ousseinov, GianCarlo Pagliasso, Alison Pearlman, Rolando Perez, Lucio Pozzi, Richard Prince, Barbara Probst, Lucas Reiner, Walter Robinson, Daniel Rothbart, Adrian Sângeorzan, Hans-Christian Schink, Elliot Schwartz, Jeremy Sigler, Olivia Smith, Philip Taaffe, Paul Vangelisti. Forthcoming from Edgewise is Jonathan Lasker’s second book with the Press, New Complete Essays, 1984-2019, edited, and with an introduction and commentary, by the author.
Other art books are Malcolm Morley (a monograph); Caravaggio on the Beach: Essays on Art in the 1990s; Jonathan Lasker: Expressions Become Things (a study of the sketches); the study The Flower Paintings of Ross Bleckner (Modena: Galleria Mazzoli Editions, 2011), which functions as the companion volume to The Paintings of Ross Bleckner; and a catalogue on the recent work of Mimmo Paladino (2012). Most recently, he has written the monographs Peter Nagy: Entertainment Erases History – Works 1982 to 2004 to the Present, and Sandro Chia: Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Mosaics. Ursus Books recently ‘spotlighted’ several of his books at ARLIS (Art Libraries Society), and his Peter Nagy book was selected for the Art and Literature Seriesby the Senior Librarian, Arezoo Mohseni, at the New York Public Library (May 27, 2015). The pop-up exhibition of Peter Nagy’s Xeroxes, The Art of Reading: Peter Nagy and the Xeroxes, at this event was accompanied by a panel discussion with Peter Nagy, Ross Bleckner, Philip Taaffe, moderated by the author. Among his most recent books is The Mannequin of History: Art After Fabrications of Critique and Culture, published by Franco Cosimo Panini, Modena, Italy, 2015.
A book of his early poetry, Alogon (1969-1981), was published by Tokyo Publishing House in Tokyo in May 2007. Several poems appeared in such magazines as Il Verri, Tam Tam, and others, before he stopped writing poetry in 1982 and resumed writing it in 1993. His first two books of poetry, Le Violon d’Ingres: Sunday Poems and Lineations 1993-1996, and Hotel of the Heart: Poems 1997-2001, were published by Nanni Cagnone with Nightmail (Bomarzo, 2004, and Pavia, 2002, respectively). Other books of poetry include; Il facchino di Venezia(The Porter of Venice): Poems 2002-2003 (Venice: Sotoportego Editore, 2007); Green Nights / Golgotha / Love’s Quarrel: Poems 2001-2003 (Belgrade, Serbia: Dossier, 2007); Stone Dragon Bridge: Poems of China 2006-2007 (Modena, Italy: Emilio Mazzoli Editore, 2007); An Earring Depending from the Moon: Poems 2006 (Venice: Sotoportego Editore, 2008); and Circus in the Fog: Poems 2005-2006 (Venice: Sotoportego Editore, 2009); Eastern Shadows (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc, 2010); Keats Dying in Your Arms (Brussels: Editions Passage St.-Hubert, 2010); With Grass Ropes We Dragged the World to Her in Wooden Boats: Poems of Jordan, Syria and Egypt 2008 (with accompanying works on paper by Alessandro Twombly) (Turin: Paolo Torti degli Alberti, 2011); Small China Moon(Udine: Campanotto Editore, in 2010); Where Angels Arch Their Backs and Dogs Pass Through (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc, 2012); Frost Heaves (with accompanying drawings by William Anastasi) (Turin: Libri Canali Bassi, 2013); A Prayer in a Wolf’s Mouth and Like Branches to Wind (with accompanying watercolors by Charles Clough) (Turin: Lower Canal Books, 2014); and Road Narrows: Poems of Tunisia (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc, 2014); A Tattoo in Morocco: Poems 2007, with accompanying drawings by Mimmo Paladino (Modena: Galleria Mazzoli, 2015); Storyville: Poems 2010, with drawings by George Hildrew (Tokyo, Japan: Tsukuda Island Press, 2017), and Ghost Stations: Poems 2015-2016, with a portfolio of photographs by Fausto Ferri (Tokyo, Japan: Tsukuda Island Press, 2017). His most recent books of poetry are One Thing at a Time: Poems of Japan 2016, with drawings by Abraham David Christian (Berlin: Galerie Albrecht, 2017); Oracle Bones: Poems 2007, with photographs by Joel Fisher (Tokyo, Japan: Tsukuda Island Press, 2018); and Night Song of the Cicadas: Poems of South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, 2017, with drawings by Joel Fisher (Berlin: Galerie Albrecht, August 2018).
Besides Il Verri and Tam Tam, poems have appeared Evergreen Review (online), Lawrence Carroll’s newspaper, and, most recently, in the Mekong Review. Reviews of his poetry have appeared in Evergreen Review, World Literature Today (in January-February 2015 and in November-December 2017), and in Poetry International Online.
Recent exhibitions include: The Mannequin of History: Art After Fabrications of Critique and Culture(EXPO 2015 Modena, Italy); Peter Halley: New Paintings – Associations, Proximities, Conversions, Grids, accompanied by the study, Skewed: Ruminations on the Writings and Works of Peter Halley; One Thing at a Time: Drawings and Sculptures by Abraham David Christian, accompanied by an eponymous book of poems by the author; Ross Bleckner: New Paintings, accompanied by the book, The Corner of the Room: Ross Bleckner’s Paintings of the 1970s, (Galleria Emilio Mazzoli, 2018); Night Song of the Cicadas: Drawings and Sculptures by Joel Fisher, (Galerie Albrecht, Berlin, 2018); and Hanging by a Thread: The Paintings of George Hildrew – A Pop-Up Exhibition, accompanied by the book, Storyville: Poems 2007, by the author, with drawings by the artist.
Together with The Paintings of Ross Bleckner and The Flower Paintings of Ross Bleckner, The Corner of the Room: Ross Bleckner’s Paintings of the 1970s completes the author’s three-volume monograph on this artist.
Forthcoming are several volumes of poetry: Except as Sorrow, as Ecstasy: Poems 2012-2013, with drawings by Jonathan Lasker; Bamboo Ladders: Poems of Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, 2012; When the Rains Came: Poems of Cambodia, 2015, with works by Lucas Reiner; Scenes of Everyday Life: Poems of Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Russia, 2016, with mixed media works by Aga Ousseinov; More Fugitive Than Light: Poems 2016-2017, with collages by Daniel Rothbart; Desuetude: Poems of Paris, Venice, Japan, 2017-2018, with photographs by Elliot Schwartz; Missing Parts: Poems 2019; Liquid Prisoners: Rereading Shakespeare’s Sonnets, in collaboration with Paul Vangelisti; two books of art criticism and theory, According to What and Theory Sauvage (companions to Art at the End of the Social and The Mannequin of History: Art After Fabrications of Critique and Culture); and an autobiography that might easily double as a book of travel writings, We Are All Beautifully Damaged. He is also preparing monographs on Peter Halley and Donald Baechler; three Collins & Milazzo publications, Hegel on Madison Ave.: Exhibition Statements, 1984-1993, Seeing Double: Essays, 1982-1993, and Double Talk: Interviews, 1982-1993; a print project with Ross Bleckner, Peter Halley, Robert Longo, Peter Nagy, Donald Baechler and Saint Clair Cemin, at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, renovated by Carlo Scarpa, accompanied by a volume with a slipcase, documenting the three exhibitions and the prints; and a book of the six lectures the author delivered on the work of Philip Taaffe: From Bayonne to the Bay of Naples, from Al Quasbah to Interzonal Leaves: A Draft of Notes Toward A Perception of Philip Taaffe’s Work, at Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, 2006. Besides the autobiographical text, We Are All Beautifully Damaged, he is working on Enter the Barbarians: Essays on the History and Culture of the Art of the 1980s.
He lives and works in New York City.