PRINT September 1997

Open Charms

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a corny and annoying movie, for sure, but like a lot of corny and annoying movies, it’s grounded in a solid premise: that the fabric of the social world is so seamless and closely woven that individual contributions to its texture and configuration are perceptible only by imagining it without them. So try this little trick with me: Stand up here with the angel for a moment and look down on the ’50s and ’60s in the United States and Europe. Now (a snap of the fingers!), envision that same world without Robert Rauschenberg. Note the immediate visual deficit; the sudden scarcity of quick and dirty; the diminishment of fast and glamorous; the drought of permission, generosity, resourcefulness, dishabille, texture, and laughter.

Observe, as well, the declining failure rate (because fewer chances are being taken) and the gradual balkanization of the art world, now lacking

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