I’m blazing through Calvin Tomkins’ Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, which is as enjoyable as the writer’s New Yorker profiles (or his great Lives of the Artists). I’m fascinated by artists who bridge transitional eras; Rauschenberg, along with Jasper Johns, found recognition among the 1950s Abstract Expressionists and the Pop Art crowd of the 1960s. Tomkins notes that the art world itself changed at this time, broadening from a circle of curators, critics and artists to the social elite of New York and the new bohemians. Contemporary art became chic and its openings a must-attend event. As you can expect, many in the old guard grumbled about this development, with the usual “death of art” and “end of culture” griping.
Sound familiar? On top of this, Tomkins writes of the prevailing hypothesis among art critics in the early 1960s: after Pollock and de Kooning, we’re going to see a renaissance of figurative drawing and religious painting.
…Then Andy Warhol happened.
As we bloviate about the future of the publishing industry, it’s important to remember how poor people are at predicting such things. (Few prognosticators have any skin in the game, as Guy LeCharles Gonzalez notes.)
To stretch the metaphor: another Andy Warhol is right around the corner.