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PRINT May 1988

Crowding The Picture: Notes on American Activist Art Today

Revolt today has no more content than buying a bus ticket. Any genuine attack on society today must occur on the level of abstraction. . . . The only true wrestle is with abstraction: the credo, the slogan, the symbol.

—Harold Rosenberg, “Themes”

Politics in the United States consists of the struggle between those whose change has been arrested by success or failure, on one side, and those who are still engaged in changing themselves, on the other.

—Harold Rosenberg, “Themes”

Along this rocky road to the actual it is only possible to go Indian file, one at a time, so that “art” means “breaking up the crowd”—not “reflecting” its experience.

—Harold Rosenberg, “The Herd of Independent Minds”

THIS SEEMS A GOOD TIME to analyze activist art—art that claims to be a kind of action rather than a kind of reflection. In the last decades, many American artists have joined the ranks of what was once an

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