The energies of cultural periods don't last forever. The Italian Renaissance came to an end--not suddenly, like a snapping rope, but gradually, through fraying, mutation, replacement. And one would need to be an extreme optimist--some would say, a willfully blind one as well--to think that the big energies of American Modernism are still with us. Which is not to say that there are not plenty of gifted and interesting visual artists in America, doing valuable work at the end of the 20th century. But cultures do decay and run out of steam; and the visual culture of late American Modernism, once...

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