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Happening from Django's Ghost on Vimeo.

From Ubuweb: “An irreverent portrait of America of the 60s seen through the experiences of artists of the Beat Generation and Pop Art. The America of the Vietnam war, ploughed by contradictions and explosive social tensions but potentially saturated with expectations for the future. With: Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Gregory Corso, Marie Benois and Leon Kraushar.”

From the Ginsberg Project:

“The prophecies of Marinetti are coming true some of them, the wilder, more poetic ones”, so, gleefully, declares Allen in this quintessentially 1967 documentary film by Antonello Branca, What’s Happening? What, indeed, is happening? Poets and painters and a brash New York City just for that moment in time and space come together. Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg candidly speak (Andy speaks!). Allen appears first (around six and a half minutes in) being interviewed as he walks along the street and then (circa 3o minutes in) is seen holding forth at a street cafe. Gregory Corso makes a cameo appearance right at the very end (with a baby!). He gets the punch line. “War makes people crazy”.

“We have all come here together. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, poet Gerard Malanga, over here, if you move your camera, poet Ed Sanders of a rock n roll group called The Fugs [unfortunately mis-translated on the screen by the Italian translator as The Fags!]..over (t)here, Tuli Kuperfberg, a poet and singer in The Fugs, over there, writing at the table. Peter Orlovsky with the long hair, who is a poet and also a singer, behind him, his brother, who was in a madhouse for 14 years. He’s a superstar of the Underground. Oh, and Jonas Mekas, Jonas Mekas, head of the Filmmakers Cooperative. He’s the one who puts together films like Flaming Creatures and The Brig and sends them around Europe and in America, the impresario. He also makes films, which he’s doing now.”

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monogram.jpgToday’s Times has a tour through NYC’s Rauschenberg holdings by Roberta Smith, the paper’s chief critic. It opens with the point that the artist not only epitomized (some would say dominated) the post-War NYC art world, but that he insistently drew on — and gave back to — the city as well. The piece begins: “Robert Rauschenberg, who died Monday at age 82, is part of the cultural mythos of postwar New York. He regularly exhibited new work here for more than 56 years, which must be some kind of record. It extended from his first solo show at the Betty Parsons gallery in 1951 to the debut of his 2007 “Runts” series at PaceWildenstein in Chelsea in January.  … Many of the materials for Mr. Rauschenberg’s found-object wizardry came directly from the sidewalks, gutters and trash bins of New York. Most of the images he used were lifted from its magazines and newspapers and mirrored the look and pulse of urban life.” She goes on to tell you where you can find work on display — and which institutions own the most stuff of his. The rest of the article is here.

Her invocation of his relationship to print media serves as a reminder that few contemporary artists can be said to have worked so fervently in so many media — or to have made the concept of distinct media problematic. And not just in his refusal to differentiate between painting and sculpture, as in the “combines.” Yesterday’s paper had a piece on his contributions, largely in collaboration with Merce Cunningham, to the city’s dance world. David Byrne writes in, reminding us that he even designed album sleeves for popular NYC bands like Talking Heads. He pushed video projection ahead of its time. NPR’s obit closes with music he recently composed.

I love the story about his first trip to a museum in the midst of a rural Texas childhood, when, looking at Blue Boy, he first realized that artists existed — that it was possible to be an artist. He spent the rest of his life grappling with that realization and in doing so serves as a model for anyone else who wants to wake up and make things — or to make up things — and look at them with new eyes or ears.

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The artist Robert Rauschenberg, subject of one of my favorite New York biographies, is dead at 82. The Times appreciation here. The Combines show, which I saw here and in LA, was without a doubt one of the best shows I’d ever seen — and as good as it was it benefited from being seen in different venues.

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