Hilton Als is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the coauthor, most recently, of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor.
 (July 2016)

The Heroic Art of Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin, Taos, New Mexico, circa 1953
London. Late summer, 2015. The city’s habitual pearly gray daylight adds, it seems, an extra layer or patina of ardor and melancholy to the Canadian-born Agnes Martin’s extraordinary mid-to-late-career paintings—images made, for the most part, on square canvases measuring seventy-two inches, and filled with stripes of varying widths and hues …

Peter Doig: The Transformer

Peter Doig: 100 Years Ago (Carrera), 90 x 141 inches, 2001
At times, when the fifty-six-year-old artist Peter Doig’s name comes up in certain art world circles—a world of curators, critics, and socially responsible artists who advanced on a steady diet of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and the bitter milk of anti–“patriarchal privilege”—there’s a great hue and cry. To begin …

The Good-bye Girl

Diane Keaton in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, 1977
The white girl has thin arms, expressive hands, and long hair. The first time we see her is in a series of black-and-white stills taken in a twilight world of bars and clubs and discos. They’re part of the opening credits for the 1977 film Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the …

Genius Breaking Through

Flannery O’Connor, 1950s
For some weeks before I read Flannery O’Connor’s posthumously published A Prayer Journal straight through, I read around it. The book’s length was not the problem. (At forty pages, not including a facsimile of O’Connor’s handwritten notes, this lovely volume rests in the hand like a collection of verse.) Nor …

Ghosts in Sunlight

Kara Walker: Burn, cut paper and adhesive on wall, 1998
Nostalgia is one thing, but making art out of the past is another thing altogether, a Herculean effort in that known and unknown landscape we might as well call the metaphysical. It’s the land where all artists dwell.

Free Associations: Collages

Janet Malcolm: Temperature of World Cities, 2011 (detail).

Last winter, I came into possession of the papers of an émigré psychiatrist who practiced in New York in the late 1940s and 1950s. The archive included a collection of manila envelopes, around six by ten inches, stuffed with folded sheets of thin paper covered with single-spaced typing: the notes the psychiatrist made after seeing patients (many of them fellow émigrés) in his office. As I studied the sheets with their inky typewriting and 60-year-old paper clips holding them together and leaving rust marks on the surface, my collagist’s imagination began to stir. I began to “see” some version of the collages on view here.

Discovering the Art of Boscoe Holder, Trinidadian Master

Last spring in Berlin, Peter Doig and Hilton Als co-curated an exhibition of portraits—mostly by young, unrecognized or forgotten artists—a show that included a rare look at the work of the remarkable but little known 20th-century Trinidadian painter Boscoe Holder (1921–2007). Here is a selection of his work, along with excerpts of a conversation between Doig, Als, and Angus Cook about the artist and his Caribbean milieu.

‘The Strange, the Crazed, the Queer’

Cate Blanchett as Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire
In those days, they called it “trade.” And the queens and fag hags who used the word—especially when there was a chance of sex with a particularly butch-looking (or “str8”) man in their midst—did so conspiratorially; after all, in the Eisenhower era, to talk openly about one’s desire in mixed …

Cate Blanchett and Blanche Dubois

At one point during Blanche’s final mad scene in the Sydney Theater Company’s much discussed revival of Tennessee Williams’s modern-day masterwork, which just concluded its sold-out run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a woman sitting across the row from me began to sob uncontrollably. Despite her obvious pain, she could not look away from the stage’s brightly lit scene of daytime disaster. One wondered about the source of that spectator’s tears. Was it the sight of Blanche being led to her dark future, her sister Stella’s flush cheeked confusion, or both?


In the end, the chief elements of his early childhood—his father, his blackness, the church, his mother’s silence—won, and the prize was his self-martyrdom.

Revolutionary Road

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s biographical film Milk, 2008
On the surface, Milk isn’t a terribly complicated film. Whatever complexity it has is revealed subtly, intermittently. As a description of the final eight years of Harvey Bernard Milk’s life, it’s fairly accurate. The screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black—Mormon-raised and a former writer and producer on the Mormon-themed, critically lauded television …

Girls & Guns

“All you need to make a movie,” the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said, “is a girl and a gun.” While guns—anatomical and otherwise—are the props used to propel much of Chicago’s plot, they’re secondary to the girl part of Godard’s dictum. Set, mainly, in the women’s ward of the Cook …