Tag: Issue 4.2

The apparent plaintiveness and autobiographical transparency of Should Love Come First?, and its early prominence in the then unknown Rauschenberg oeuvre, felt intensified by its obliteration by the artist himself. If ever an artwork had a story worth sleuthing, I figured it was this one, even if it was just the story of its own production.

I immediately recognized that the instruments of his labor—brushes and a bucket of whitewash, used to brighten the walls of soot-filled homes—were often the stuff of racial satire and caricature in the nineteenth century. Was this a sympathetic portrayal of an African American or something much more complicated?

Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings marks a turning point for early American art in the popular consciousness, both at home and abroad, by challenging the nativism and conservatism that surrounds narratives of that most marketable and yet most fraught of Americanist brand names: “Hudson River School.”