I am writing with regard to Cate McQuaid’s article “Lasting impressions” (SundayArts, Aug. 10). I appreciate the author’s thoroughness and careful eye, two characteristics that are often missing in contemporary art criticism. However, it is necessary to point out that further research, or perhaps a stronger commitment to ending oppressive art historical narratives, is needed in this piece.
Robert Rauschenberg was not Jasper Johns’s “friend,” as the author states. They were, in fact, lovers. There has been a longstanding reluctance to recognize this fact, and unfortunately, this article only contributes to the erasure of queerness from the narrative of modern art history. To label Rauschenberg a friend, whether as a result of a lack of historical awareness or an active attempt to blur the facts, is to eliminate a critical dimension of Johns’s career that is essential, though still underdiscussed. This oversight limits possible interpretations of and discussions surrounding Johns’s oeuvre. This is not merely an issue of word choice; rather, it points to larger issues of representation and identity politics.
WILLIAM J. SIMMONS
The City University of New York
New York, N.Y.