Edit DeAk, a Champion of Outsider Artists, Dies at 68

Attuned to the emerging alternative galleries and performance spaces in downtown Manhattan, the journal, published out of Ms. DeAk’s SoHo loft, turned the spotlight on art at the margins: performance art, video art, conceptual art and outsider art. She had a special affection for street art, which she once called “information from the middle of the night.”

Ms. DeAk’s critical style was personal, quirky and inventive, with adjectives like “nuancical” popping up unexpectedly.

“You couldn’t tell if it was a Joycean toying with the language or a problem of translation,” Mr. Robinson said in an interview. “She was a poet.”

Photo

Edit DeAk in June.

Credit
William Howell

The prose was a calculated affront to the rarefied theorizing that surrounded minimalism and dominated the slick art journals.

“There’s something rotten about a structure that produces terminological pollution and calls it theory, like a mob-controlled waste disposal company,” Ms. DeAk once wrote. The goal was “to destroy the criticship of critics,” she was quoted as saying in an unpublished article for Artforum magazine in 1974.

It was also to get there first, even if that meant writing about art still in the studio. As a part-time assistant at the alternative gallery Artists Space, Ms. DeAk organized a series in 1974 devoted to video, performance art and readings that included Laurie Anderson, Kathy Acker, Adrian Piper and Jack Smith. She was later among the first critics to notice Jean-Michel Basquiat, before he began showing in galleries.

She continued to beat the bushes in the early 1980s as a contributing writer for Artforum, where she and her fellow critic Rene Ricard covered the downtown scene like a zeitgeist tag team. Ms. DeAk later wrote an occasional column for Interview magazine. Called “The New According to Edit DeAk,”…

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