Art: Phoenix in Venice

Probably no one will remember the mid-'70s as a great moment in the making of modern art. But there is a great crisis in our ideas about it, and that crisis is the content of the 1976 Venice Biennale, which opened to the public last week. We know the pieties—that the avant-garde is embattled, that culture transcends politics, that abstract art speaks a language uncontaminated by ideology, that modernism somehow makes us free. Throughout the '50s and early '60s, the Biennale—that sprawl of art exhibitions devoted to the newest of the new, held...

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