Peter Schjeldahl: March 20, 1942 – October 21, 2022
Editor’s note: Though I was a big fan, I never met Peter Schjehldahl in person. We only crossed paths on the pages of the Voice, in the 1990s, with him writing the lead, full-page art review most weeks while I was turning out the occasional Jockbeat article. Some years ago, though, after he’d been the New Yorker’s art critic for decades, we connected through our mutual admiration for, and writings about, the photographer Mark Morrisroe, who died of AIDS in 1989.
Then, in 2018, Schjeldahl wrote an essay about one of the Voice’s periodic deaths, and I pointed out to him that the New Yorker’s vaunted fact-checkers had made an error about the location of the Voice’s offices. His reply, characteristically witty and channeling a bit of William Blake, instantly went into my wish-I’d-written-that folder: “The NYer checkers are as superhumanly anal as ever—on the print side, as very much opposed to the crazy berserk online mill.”
The following spring, I was talking to a grad student at NYU and baseball came up, as she is both a hardcore painter and a Cubs fan. I mentioned an astonishing baseball-art mashup I remembered Scheldahl writing back in the day, and later that afternoon I found it in one of the Voice’s bound archive volumes. I thought, “I should put this up for opening day.”
I sent the link to Schjeldahl, noting that I much admired the formal/conceptual heft of his “Clemente to Marden to Kiefer” piece and always lol’d at his description of the German painter Anselm Kiefer as a “two-ton Teuton.”
A few hours later, he replied, “Takes me back. I loved the VV. Where else could conceivably have published this?”
Where else indeed?
It’s fall once again, and postseason baseball and the art world are in full swing, but, unfortunately, we must say goodbye to one of the giants. —R.C. Baker