Art: The Arcadian as Utopian

Rauschenberg's rhapsodic energies fill four Manhattan shows

At 57, Robert Rauschenberg is back; but then, the rumors that he had gone away were greatly exaggerated. It is almost 30 years since his "combine" paintings—rebus-like assemblies of every imaginable waste object, from beach tar to stuffed chickens, from electric fans to auto tires, slathered in abstract expressionist paint drips—burst upon the American art world. Nearly two decades, a lifetime for some artists, have elapsed since his first prize at the Venice Biennale (back when the Biennale mattered) heralded the "imperial" entry of American art...

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