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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Robert Rauschenberg
Photo Ed Chappell




Sor Aqua (Venetian)

Rauschenberg in Pelican
Photo Peter Moore
   There were plenty of swells at the uptown Guggenheim Museum for Bob Rauschenberg's boffo opening: Robert Pincus-Witten happily gorged himself, like a squirrel, on nuts and chocolate. A refurbished Betsy Baker gave us a dirty look.

Lisa Phillips seemed to be pasted into her blue silk suit. Julian Schnabel, in see-through white pajamas, sans underwear, has put most of his weight back on. In contrast, Brooke Alexander is as thin as Ichabod Crane, though not headless. Only one question: Where was Bob? Well, like any honest artist, he was with his new work, at the underpopulated downtown Goog opening, dressed in black like Johnny Cash, leaning over the railing of the hilarious bubbling mud bath he had created with Bell Labs' Billy Klüver.

Nearby, in the shadows like Brutus and Cassius: Thomas Krens and show curator Walter Hopps, agonizing that they "had" to stay near their star, not bolt uptown to schmooze.

It can't be said enough that reproduction does an extreme disservice to Rauschenberg (as does the New York Times by reprinting the overused Persimmon on the front page of its "diss"appearing new Fine Arts section last Friday).

In person Canyon, with its yellow - desert - under - vulture motif, is starkly mesmerizing -- you can't keep your eyes off it.

His goat is heartbreakingly pathetic, his chicken weirdly majestic, his Jasper now one more farm animal cowering in Rauschy's shadow. The chickenshit Goog put up only one penis light box, of course (they looked great at Sonnabend last year) and missed a big opportunity that aging hipster Hopps should have exploited -- this is one show that begged to be organized "formally" not chronologically.

But museum types are too busy imitating the Clinton White House, in a big money grovel, to attempt innovation anymore.


"Another opening, another show"
       -- Bugs Bunny

Marlborough's 19th Street sculpture space opened with more cheese than Wisconsin -- the usual droves of Eurotrash on their cell phones, plus Red Grooms, Mark Kostabi, John Alexander, Alex Katz and Fernando Botero, who refused to be photographed with Sir Anthony Caro, who looks like the sea-salt tar on the Simpsons.

The Caro piece, made of railroad ties, is the single worst example of sculpture we have ever seen, with the exception of the black Bourgeois breasts (Louise) across the room.


"The King and Queen had hired an artist to paint the backs of the Constable, Reynolds and Gainsborough canvases with the cartoon faces of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to liven up the atmosphere for their children."
      -- How the young Elizabeth II was
        entertained, according to Kitty
        Kelly's The Royals


Short stuff: half a dozen people have already stolen plastic penises from the Dinos and Jake Chapman show at Gagosian. Deborah Solomon calls them "the chapsticks," by the way.


Ex-porn painter Christian Eckhardt is such a stereo fanatic that he spent $2,000 on a machine that cleans up the electric current in his system.


Wanna know how itinerant curator Kenny "The Push" Schachter eats? He sold a Jean-Michel Basquiat for $278,000!


Patrick Callery liked our reportage about him so much that he slipped us his phone number for further scoops.


"Most artists were abused by their mothers"
  -- Joseph Cornell scholar Deborah Solomon

We won't bore you with how great our panel at Matthew Marks was. If you're interested, access the audio broadcast on ""

Suffice it to say that the event far surpassed the bullshit panels Artforum no longer does at the Drawing Center, because it won't spare the money.

CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.