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black and white photo portrait of the artist Charles Atlas on a blue background
black and white photo portrait of the artist Charles Atlas on a blue background

Photo-Illustration: Curbed;    Photo: Lazar Bozic

New York’s “21 Questions” is back with an eye on creative New Yorkers. Charles Atlas’s pioneering experiments in film, video, performance, and installation have defied conventions for decades. His multimedia projects at institutions like the MoMA, the Pompidou, and the Met often feature close collaborations with other artists and performers (he was Merce Cunningham’s videographer for decades), and are increasingly large-scale and immersive. In January, he opened the U.S. debut of “A Prune Twin” at Luhring Augustine; the exhibition surrounds the viewer with footage of another of Atlas’s longtime co-conspirators, the Scottish choreographer and dancer Michael Clark. The Chelsea show comes close off the heels of another massive undertaking at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, the 100-foot installation The Mathematics of Consciousness.

What’s hanging above your couch?
Two framed prints by Nicole Eisenman. They’re individual heads — one blue and one black. They were a gift from Nicole.

What’s the first job you had in New York?
I was a sales clerk in the “books and rare autographs” department of the B. Altman department store, which was on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

What color are you always drawn to? 
Orange is my favorite color and has been for a long time. My sideburns are orange, my cap is orange, my shoes. I took up orange in the early ’80s. I used to like red, but once I changed to orange I never went back.

What work of art or artifact are you most surprised you own?
A “Tutu Head,” which belonged to my friend Leigh Bowery, who passed in 1994. It’s a spherical headpiece covering his entire head, and it’s made of tulle. He used to wear it out as part of one of his “looks” when he went to nightclubs.

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