THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF THE VISUAL ARTS
The news of Jim Yood’s death last Friday came as a shock to his family, friends and members of the worldwide art community. He was taken from us much too soon at age 65.
Soon after receiving his advanced degree in art history from the University of Chicago, he started his teaching career. He began at Indiana University Northwest and then moved to Northwestern and, finally, to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where, among other duties, he headed the Arts Journalism program.
We at the Examiner knew Jim as a fellow journalist who began that phase of his life at our then-fledgling art journal as a freelancer. His association continued through the 1980s, culminating in his appointment as Managing Editor from 1985-87. Over that period, he contributed more than 100 articles and reviews to the Examiner. The world soon learned of his many gifts, but we knew him first. He was always available to both Michel and me through the years.
His talent was too large for Chicago alone to contain. He became a regular contributor to Artforum, Aperture and VisualArtSource.com among other publications. His books included Spirited Visions: Portraits of Chicago Artists, William Morris: Animal/Artifact, Gladys Nilsson and Feasting: A Celebration of Food in Art. He also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
SAIC has announced that a memorial service will be held sometime in the fall.
The unexpected passing of James Yood is both profoundly sad and shocking. We at the Examiner and among his many colleagues grieve at the loss, and our first thoughts are for his wife, Lorraine, and his daughter, Lily.
The Chicago art community is deeply affected by his death. He was a friend, colleague, mentor, writer and critic. Our memories and thoughts of him at this time are poignant and bittersweet. I am certain that I am just one of many who are remembering and reminiscing about Jim today.
Jim was a powerful and influential writer, a charismatic and nurturing teacher and a looming and empathetic presence in the local art community. His words sparked generations and his encouragement and compassion marked the beginning of many a career and gave voice to others who were more established. On all levels, he was a “mensch,” someone of noble character to both admire and emulate. I, like legions of others, held Jim in the highest regard. His care and concern were constant, and the generations he nurtured will, in turn, nurture others.
My long friendship with Jim started as young faculty members at Indiana University Northwest in the early 1980s. Jim was hired as a part-time art historian. I was an assistant professor in the department of fine arts. As we both taught on Tuesday and Thursday, Jim would take a bus to 24th and Halsted and then catch a ride with me to Gary, Indiana. If the landscape was stark and desolate, our conversations were not and were most often the best part of my day.
After several years, Jim eventually left for more permanent teaching positions, including at Northwestern University and then, finally, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He also was editor of the New Art Examiner in the ‘80s as well as a frequent contributor to numerous art magazines, including Artforum. Jim published numerous catalog essays, wrote book introductions and lectured both nationally and internationally. His career was, in all ways, exemplary and his influence profound and lingering. Without hesitation, as a scholar and critic, he was the voice and words of the Chicago art community and perhaps our most important and influential critic.
As a community, we say “kaddish” for Jim. His spirit and presence were a gift to us all, and I, like many others, feel grateful to have known him and called him my friend. If his life was shorter than what we hoped for, his influence was not. His shadow is long, and his presence will linger. He was loved, and he will be missed.
Neil Goodman is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Indiana, Northwest. He is now the Los Angeles correspondent of the New Art Examiner.
On Saturday, April 21st, while having lunch in Pilsen, I received a call informing me of the sudden death of Jim Yood. And, as only memory can do, life for me was jarred in unexpected ways. Only a few days earlier, I was speaking with Jim about art-related issues and a favorite of both of us, the Chicago White Sox. The world was aright with all the ambiance that sharing an intimate moment about life with a friend can possess.
The sudden recollection that Saturday afternoon had little to do with the well-documented stature of a man highly respected for all his contributions as a major art critic and beloved teacher. As would be expected, following Jim’s passing, there were numerous social media posts of loving and insightful tributes and testimonies. However, there was one that especially stood out for me.
In January of this year, I and the art world lost another loving friend, art critic Dennis Adrian. Jim brought the attention of Dennis’s passing to all of us in an obit in Visual Art Source. It said as much about Jim Yood as it said about the subject he was engaged in capturing. It personified the many gifts of honesty, respect, integrity, empathy and, above all, the thoughtful kindness that Jim possessed.
Given the divergent approaches between Dennis and Jim in their field of art criticism, It is not the kind of subject or context that many writers could handle with such eloquence. Jim could and did. I would like to close this memory by simply restating the initial response I had to the social media post regarding Jim’s essay/obit about Dennis Adrian:
Jim’s reflections on Adrian are an incredible tribute to a man who I have known personally for over 47 years. Dennis and I were very close friends. It was Dennis who introduced my art to the Chicago art scene. It was Dennis who helped me to understand the importance of what it meant to be an artist in this great city of ours. And, as Jim so eloquently pointed out, Dennis’ writing underscored and elevated the importance and historical presence of much of the great art that Chicago has produced.
Just as I was stunned to hear of Jim’s sudden passing, I was stunned when I learned of the death of my incredible mentor and friend, Dennis Adrian. Dennis and I never failed to call each other on our birthday, a date we both shared, June 16. In a few weeks, I will once again be reminded of Dennis, who had a very special place in my heart. As I will continue to miss Jim, the feeling for the loss of both these very special and gifted individuals will be stated once again: Life is much too short. But the presence of such men carve time in ways that can seem forever...and forever shall I remember them both.
Make a MONTHLY DONATION or a ONE-TIME DONATION via PayPal
SUBSCRIBE to the print version of the New Art Examiner via PayPal