Painting: Realer than Real

What, in art, is real? The question is as old as Plato and as new as the Museum of Modern Art's summer spectacular, called "The Art of the Real." The museum's show consists of 33 to total abstractions, on the argument that only objects professing to be nothing but themselves are truly "real." The older, more obvious and far more common interpretation, of course, is that reality in art is achieved by copying "real life." Stirred by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, a mini-renaissance of this older school is taking place.

The very mention of photography has long repelled...

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