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PRINT May 1988

Something Borrowed, Something Bloom

THAT OUR HISTORICIST ERA is also an estheticist era, one in which sheer attractiveness often seems to reign both in art and in the mundane, has considerable bearing on the apparent fact that ours is above all a synthetic era, one in which the greatest art is merz art—a matter of wittingly random collages. The return to the past can seem to be a way of giving up on the future, and it can have the chilling quality that the most seductively popular nostalgic things always have. But the 1980s’ self-conscious preoccupation with the past—manifested in the manic borrowings of both “high” and popular culture, and in the still-rising obsession with the conservation of monuments from the past—reflects a deeply uneasy self-consciousness about belatedness. The fruits of bygone periods dangle for the reaping; but inherent in the awareness of these expanses of the past is the crippling weight of all

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