Robert Rauschenberg

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"Rauschenberg" redirects here. For other uses, see Rauschenberg (disambiguation)

Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) is an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s, and is often seen as enabling a transition from Abstract Expressionism to the media-saturated surfaces of Pop. He is perhaps most famous for his ‘Combines’ of the 1950s, in which all kinds of non-traditional materials and objects were employed in rich and innovative combinations. Whilst the Combines straddle both painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg has also worked with photography, performance, and a method of drawing known as ‘solvent transfer.’ In 1964 he was the first American artist to win the Venice Biennale, and since then he has enjoyed a rare degree of institutional support. He lives and works in Florida.

Riding Bikes, Berlin, 1998


[edit] Biography

Born on October 22, 1925 in Port Arthur, Texas, as "Robert" Milton Ernest Rauschenberg, he studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Académie Julian in Paris France , before enrolling in 1948 at the legendary Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There his painting instructor was the renowned Bauhaus figure Josef Albers, whose rigid discipline and sense of method inspired Rauschenberg, as he once said, to do "exactly the reverse" of what Albers taught him.

More often, Rauschenberg's early works reflected the aesthetic of his friend, composer John Cage, another member of the Black Mountain faculty, whose music of chance occurrences and found sounds perfectly suited Rauschenberg's personality. The "white paintings" produced by Rauschenberg at Black Mountain in 1951, while they contain no image at all, are said to be so exceptionally blank and reflective that their surfaces respond and change in sympathy with the ambient conditions in which they are shown, "so you could almost tell how many people are in the room," as Rauschenberg once commented. The White Paintings are said to have directly influenced Cage in the composition of his completely "silent" piece titled 4'33" the following year.

In 1952 Rauschenberg began his series of "Black Paintings" and "Red Paintings," in which large, expressionistically brushed areas of color were combined with collage and found objects attached to the canvas. These so-called "Combine Paintings" ultimately came to include such theretofore un-painterly objects as a stuffed goat and the artist's own bedquilt, breaking down traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture, and reportedly prompting one Abstract Expressionist painter to remark, "If this is Modern Art, then I quit!" Rauschenberg's Combines provided inspiration for a generation of artists seeking alternatives to traditional artistic media. (See Assemblage, Arte Povera.)

Rauschenberg's approach was sometimes called "Neo-Dada," a label he shared with the painter Jasper Johns, with whom he had a long artistic and personal relationship. Rauschenberg's oft-repeated quote that he wanted to work "in the gap between art and life," suggested a questioning of the distinction between art objects and everyday objects reminiscent of the issues raised by the notorious "Fountain" of Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp. At the same time, Johns' paintings of numerals, flags, and the like, were reprising Duchamp's message of the role of the observer in creating art's meaning.

Alternatively, in 1961, Rauschenberg took a step in what could be considered the opposite direction by championing the role of creator in creating art's meaning. Rauschenberg was invited to participate in an exhibition at the Galerie Iris Clert, where artists were to create and display a portrait of the owner, Iris Clert. Rauschenberg's submission consisted of a telegram sent to the gallery declaring "This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so."

By 1962, Rauschenberg's paintings were beginning to incorporate not only found objects but found images as well--photographs transferred to the canvas by means of the silkscreen process. Previously used only in commercial applications, silkscreen allowed Rauschenberg to address the multiple reproducibility of images, and the consequent flattening of experience that that implies. In this respect, his work is exactly contemporaneous with that of Andy Warhol, and both Rauschenberg and Johns are frequently cited as important forerunners of American Pop Art.

In 1967, Billy Klüver and Rauschenberg officially launched Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) a non-profit organization established to promote collaborations between artists and engineers.

In addition to painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg's long career has also included significant contributions to printmaking and Performance Art. He also won a Grammy Award for his album design of the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues. As of 2003 he continues to work from his home and studio in Captiva, Florida.

[edit] Quotes

  • "I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out of the real world."
  • "The artist's job is to be a witness to his time in history."
  • "You begin with the possibilities of the material."
  • "An empty canvas is full only if you want it to be full."
  • "My work is the gap between art and life."

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Mary Lynn Kotz. Rauschenberg, Art and Life. New York: Harry Abrams Inc., 2004.

[edit] External links

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Robert Rauschenberg

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