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Tuesday 05.13.08

« OCAC Thesis Show | Main | More Jess »

Remembering Robert Rauschenberg

Canyon, 1959, Combine on canvas, 81 3/4 x 70 x 24 in.

Robert Rauschenberg has passed away at age 82 of heart failure, here is the New York Times obit. A great artist and massively influential, PORT's thoughts are with his friends and family.

With his ultra influential combines and even moreso silk-screens, Rauschenberg's place in history is secure as one of art's great alchemists. Without Rauschenbergs's mental muscle and protean reinvention you wouldn't have Warhol (silk-screen), Johns or even Sigmar Polke (silk-screen), Anselm Kiefer (combines) and Jean Michel Basquiat whose cypher-like pictorial organization owed much to seminal works like Factum I and II.

My favorite Rauschenberg would have to be Canyon, a work so loaded of with rich associative properties it may be the most telling American representative of Post WWII art... it's simply all there; ironic nationalism, stylistic conflicts, poetic hypocrisy, personal asides etc. Hilariously, the fact that Rauchenberg used a bald eagle insures that the work cannot be bought and sold (a protected animal). Also, turning that eagle into a magpie.. a predator turned into imposter... a symbol becomes a chameleon etc.. is simply unbeatable when discussing art and American politics/life.

I think the best recent piece of writing on him was Jerry Saltz's Our Picasso? review of the combine show.

Patrician Barnacle (scale) 1981, Portland Art Museum

On the recent and local front Robert Rauschenberg has been active and generous to Portland (where his son Christopher lives). His gift of Patrician Barnacle to Blue Sky gallery and subsequent puchase by the Portland Art Museum became both the genesis of the Desoto building project and a major aquisition for our museum (which now has several Rauschenbergs on view including 2 card birds and one of his sling shot light boxes in addition to Patrician Barnacle.)

Expect lots of other media outlets to pay their respects, here's what some others have said:

Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Urban Jacksonville, A Shaded View, Ward-O-Matic

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the man and his art here.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on May 13, 2008 at 10:58 | Comments (6)


this is my favorite also .love the cardboard on it ,such a revolution to use that then .
he was a subliminal artist .
through his work I understood making in its obvious way without the obliviousness of IT.
his consciousness went beyond and could have not been contained in its frame .
he is good for ever .
ps : to buy OFF THE WALL a biography of RR.


Posted by: Modou [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 12:57 PM

very sad news. My thoughts go out to his family and many friends.

Extraordinary man who created so many great works.

I'm very glad I got to see Rauschenberg’s show “Runts” at PaceWildenstein Gallery this February.

Posted by: bradc [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 03:20 PM

Hmm, how long should one wait until speaking ill of the dead? When thinking about Rauschenberg I find myself thinking about the Ezra Pound poem: "I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman, I have detested you long enough." Well, I make a pact with you Robert Rauschenberg, I have detested you long enough. No doubt this man was an influential artist, but it was an influence like a species mutation, which is doomed to extinction. As to such comments as "without him you don't have . . ." this is a kind of thinking which is patently false. In physics no one would say, without Einstein you wouldn't have nuclear bombs. Someone would have figured it out, it just would have come about in a different way. We all have our experiences wherein we discover that we can thumb our nose at authority or rebel against the establishement. For those who discovered this through Rauschenberg, he no doubt represents an iconic figure. For those who discovered it through another path, his work is just silly, which, rather sadly, did little to contribute to the wealth of visual intelligence of humanity. Thankfully, we can now move on.

Posted by: Amsterdammer [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2008 09:08 AM

Interesting views and I repect anyone with the will to swim against the current, but I fail to see this "extinction." Artists like Iza Genzken, Rachel Harrison, Sarah Sze and Cai Gou-Quiang are benificiaries, even children of rauschenberg's aesthetic and philosophical DNA.

I also think you get the gist of what I meant when I stated, "without him you wouldn't have..."

The world simply would have been different without the work that Rauschenberg did. I don't dispute that other people would have proabbly come across something similar at some point (Thomas Carlyle could be invoked) and in fact people like Braque and Klee, Duchamp and Cornell had already done similar things with collage/contructions. Yet the deevil is in the details. Rauschenberg isn't the sole author of the ideas he used... but he was directing traffic those ideas took. He definitely gave the dada underpinnings a more visceral punch than the Europeans did.

His style changed the landscape in ways that makes discussing those after him forced and partisan without acknowledging his contributions. Hoping for his contribution's extinction without any evidence is hardly an argument.

The point, Rauschenberg's contributions changed the way even his detractors thought and acted, he's a major benchmark. That is true influence and even if others discovered similar ideas through different paths, those paths owe a debt by virtue of being part of the facets of the similar interests. In the end they are on the same side and sometimes one facet when cut just right tends to shine a little brighter. Resent it or celebrate it, the waves of agitation/adulation indicates that Rauschenberg's legacy has a great deal of life in it still. His is not a dead language.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2008 10:45 AM

Rauschenberg was one of the best. No one can argue with that.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2008 11:14 AM

Robert Rauschenberg is certainly one of the best recognized names in American Art History. I disagree strongly with the Village Voice article characterizing him as the American Picasso. In terms of name recognition, iconic status, and revolutionary style, that mantle would seem to rest firmly on the shoulders of Pollack. Just as no one can paint in a cubist manner without evoking Picasso, it is impossible to drip paint without reference to Pollack.

I would have no problem with Rauschenberg being characterized as the American Duchamp, and my criticism of Rauschenberg's work is that it seems derivative of Duchamp, apperaring at a far later, less revolutionary, era. The quality of his work seems to me to have the trait of being very American, not something that evokes the universal, and I think he has to be relegated to a B-lister for that reason. That he was personally generous to the Portland art community, however, cannot be debated.

Posted by: Amsterdammer [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2008 10:47 AM

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