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SIDESHOW BOB
by Charlie Finch
 
Leo Steinberg approached us at Robert Rauschenberg's opening at the Metropolitan Museum on Monday night. "My friends sent me the piece you wrote about me, Charlie. They said I got off easy, that you devastate people." We turned to Alex Katz. "Alex, have you met Leo Steinberg?" Leo: "Actually, we've never met." Alex: "We once stood on the chow line together at Pierre Levai's, and Charlie's OK." It was that kind of night.

We sidled up to Adam Weinberg, head of the Whitney Museum, who was schmoozing Larry Gagosian. "Adam," we remarked, "We're writing Larry's biography." Larry grinned. Adam smiled. A roomful of Cheshire cats.

Our sources at the Museum of Modern Art tell us not to write anything bad about Glenn Lowry. "You see, Charlie," they say, "Glenn is the favorite to succeed Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan, and we don't want to jinx his chances. When he moves on, we're free at last!" Well, lo and behold, in the front room of the Rauschenberg show, filled with gorgeous 1954 chinoisie that didn't sell, lent by Ileanna Sonnabend and Jasper Johns, was Glenn Lowry hugging de Montebello like two sharpies at Aqueduct. David Ross (remember him?) tried to make it a threesome, but failed.

Oh, Rauschenberg was there in white jacket and wheelchair, and Merce was chairbound, too. These dancers cannot know the dance, anymore, for greed is not a dance.

The work, hung delicately like prints at a geisha's by Nan Rosenthal, evokes more innocent, private times. Honeysuckle, from the collection of Johns, and its half-century old companions, are hung like suits on the back racks at Barney's, combining the sheets of Laura Ashley with the strokes of Hans Hofmann. Wasn't that a time?

Contrapuntally, a large water tower penis, just exhumed from the Philip Johnson collection, laughs at the wealthy like Chaplin's tattered shoe.

Everything sort of goes to hell when Bob starts sparking Johns, of course. A certain lyricism is lost, for Braque never balled Picasso.

Neverheless it was BOB who influenced JOHNS! Just look at Coca Cola Plan, collection of Count Panza. Three altered Coke bottles, long before some imitative cans of beer!!

The eagle, the chicken and the goat never looked more majestic, nor more humble.

We said to Robert Pincus-Witten, "We'll take you to lunch and talk about Larry Gagosian." Pinky shrank back: "Lunch we'll do, but never Larry." Hark the herald, sideshow Bob.


"Robert Rauschenberg: Combines," Dec. 20, 2005-Apr. 2, 2006, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10028


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).