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HAPLESS FIGURES IN AN ARTIFICIAL STORM

The friends who met here and embraced are gone, Each to his own mistake.

—W. H. Auden

TOWARD THE END of our 20th century, in a bleak public atmosphere of unremitting entertainment, many visual artists see themselves as locked in unequal combat with the smiling media. During its modern past, art has had to slip out from the grasp of decayed and repressive structures. It has pried open the grip of the salon or the academy, and of other, more recent state-sponsored cultural controls that have uncertainly continued to the present day, loosening in such traditional sites as Russia but tightening here. Simultaneously, artists have had to compete for social status within an explosive outreach of communications that almost literally atomizes all personal statement. Distanced by augmented technical systems, daunted by the massive publics accessed through satellite, artists have been hard put to

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