Thursday, May 15, 2008

RIP Robert Rauschenberg

Now that Rauschenberg has died, perhaps we can move beyond (be finished with) his kind of late Modernist/postmodern art. Some of his works were interesting. Some were clever. But if we judge him by his effect on art, I'm not sure how well he'll be judged. Naturally, everyone's throwing in their two cents' worth, from Left to Right. His iconoclasm will undoubtedly be praised -- but what is praiseworthy about attacking what is at the very center of art? In the end, praising one's iconoclasm is praising one's hatred for beauty.

Over on TCSDaily, there is an interview with Tom Wolfe who admitted that artists create for the same reason as God created: for their own glory. This is perhaps true enough. The artist does in a sense pull works out of "airy nothingness" (Shakespeare). More, artists seem compelled to create. And what are they creating but parts of themselves? An artist's art is a reflection of his or her soul, whatever else it may be. More, it is also an attempt to transform the world to reflect the artist him- or herself -- to approve of the things the artist approves of, to condemn the things the artist condemns, to see the world the way the artist sees it. That can be comic, tragic, or romantic, beautiful or ugly, serious or nonserious.

Who, then, was Rauschenberg? And what kind of world was he trying so hard to create?
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