“The world has moved on yet again, historical traumas are the stuff of Oscar contention, a page has been turned. “No labels” is the fashion statement of kids belonging to Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools across America. And as gay life has moved from boho elitism to near bourgeoisie respectability—who cares more about marriage and religion?—the challenge of living life in a bigger world resounds. A perk of the choices of [Jasper] Johns and [Robert] Rauschenberg (and Sontag, and others) was their chance to be players in the larger world rather than put in a box and dismissed. “I’m obsessed these days, too, by Sartre and Beauvoir,” says Vezzoli of his admiration for such partnered geniuses.
With all the post-gay complications of civil unions, wedding portraits in the Times, Daddy Mommies, surrogate eggs and sperm, and all-male baby showers, maybe we’re winding back to a time when nuance is acceptable again. Even Jonathan Katz now stresses the subtle humor of Johns and Rauschenberg: “They were closeted, but their closet had a screen door.”— English professor and author of the upcoming “Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor” on ‘The Art of Gay Cool’ as espoused by not-so-openly-gay artists (and ‘boyfriends’) Jasper John and Robert Rauschenberg.