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Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009.

Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009. (photo)

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Jeanne-Claude — Christo’s collaborator and partner — died today in Manhattan at the age of 74. It was fitting, in a way, not only because the artist pair have been residents of the city since 1964, but because their last big completed project was “The Gates,” which turned Central Park’s walkways into a series of orange vinyl doorways and drapes, portways of color livening up an especially dreary winter.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been shorthanded as the people who “wrap” things, which only goes so far. A bigger part of their projects was to rendering the familiar temporarily strange, whether by covering a bridge’s familiar outlines in fabric or by transforming it into an ominous new bulk.

Six times, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects have been documented by Albert Maysles (“Gimme Shelter,” “Grey Gardens”) and, before his death, his brother David. Besides capturing some memorable, deliberately ephemeral artwork in their wind-breathing majesty, the movies made it very clear that the projects, which could take forever to get all the necessary permits for (26 years in the case of “The Gates”), were at least as much about documenting the daily business of bureaucracy and paperwork as the final project. Bureaucracy was something Christo, a refugee of communist Czechoslovakia, surely knows a bit about. In capturing that oft-tedious process, the Maysles were full collaborators on the projects, which were at least as much illuminations of modern government machines as anything.

I saw them speak once, as a freshman at NYU, a few months before “The Gates” was scheduled to be unveiled. As on film, Jeanne-Claude could be abrasive, dismissive, pushy and just a little unlikable; she was also, it was clear, fiercely protective of and indispensable to Christo, doing most of the talking and buffering he clearly didn’t want to get sucked into. It was a pleasure and privilege to see such an iron-glued professional/personal partnership.

What was perhaps most remarkable about their seemingly esoteric projects were the levels of sheer glee they could inspire in civilians who would normally never give the time of day to anything remotely “arty” or “abstract.” When I went to “The Gates” twice, I heard nary a cross word. That’s another thing the Maysles documented.

Below is part one of 1974’s “Christo’s Valley Curtain,” a 28-minute document of the process of setting up a, well, hanging curtain across Colorado’s Valley Gap. When you have time, you really should sit down and watch all of it: as it goes on, it becomes an intensely intimate collaboration between Christo, Jeanne-Claude and a series of professional but at first deeply skeptical construction workers just there for the paycheck. When it’s time to make it work and the curtain comes down, their ebullient cheers are unforgettable. That Christo and Jeanne-Claude got pretty much anyone to think differently about what art could do for them is one of their biggest achievements. R.I.P. Jeanne-Claude; it was one amazing collaboration.

[Photo: “The Gates,” Lorber HT Digital, 2005]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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