PRINT September 1997

Early Lead

FOR YEARS I SAID to students and friends that Jasper Johns was an American Braque (though I did not realize how true that was; the final confirmation came with John Golding’s recent show of Braque’s late work and David Sylvester’s account of it). I always added that he was a Braque without a Picasso by his side. But, that was before Walter Hopps’ breathtaking exhibition six years ago of Rauschenberg’s early pieces. I was late in coming to Rauschenberg’s work, but since Hopps’ show I’ve been convinced that, in the relationship between the two artists, a relationship about which there has been so much gossip but so little scholarship, Rauschenberg had acted as the Picasso of the pair—and I hope one day someone will lay out the degree of his artistic precedence. Johns, for example, incessantly receives credit for his investigation of indexical signs (from the reduplication of flat figurative

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