Robert Rauschenberg was an American avantgarde painter who—due to his extraordinarily catholic research interests in the late 1950, the 1960s, and the early 1970s—pioneered technical and expressive innovations, not only in the ideational potential of painting and assemblage, but also in sculpture, installation, printmaking, drawing, ceramics, papermaking, dance, and performance. As a highly prolific, multi-disciplinary artist, he was an energetic boundary-blurrer, and a great traveller and international collaborator.Read More
Robert Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas. After studying painting in Kansas City, Paris, and North Carolina, he moved to New York in 1950—when Abstract Expressionism was in full swing but Pop art, with its celebration of everyday imagery, was soon to emerge.
Robert Rauschenberg's interest in photography, screenprinting, and other disciplines led him to further develop ideas, stimulated by Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters, of store-purchased ready-mades, found objects, and printed media mingled with a strong sense of the materiality of paint and the spatial independence of sculpture—be that freestanding or wall relief. These works were often called 'combines'.
The idea that an artwork might be a kind of decipherable rebus was encouraged by Robert Rauschenberg's close friendship with Jasper Johns, both artists being interested in the implications of carefully chosen attached objects, thickly applied paint, and abstraction blended with narrative elements. Their works are now seen as precursors to Pop art.
Through innovative Dada-inspired works like Bed (1955), with its vertically presented paint-encrusted bed and quilt, or Monogram (1959), with its stuffed billy goat standing on a platform and thrust through an automobile tyre, Robert Rauschenberg became an important influence on later artists such as Jessica Stockholder, Isa Genzken, Don Driver, and Rachel Harrison. He was also a precursor of the 1970s conceptual art movement with works like Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) and This is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So, the latter of which is a telegram he sent his dealer (named in the title) in 1961.
There have been many surveys of Robert Rauschenberg's varied and innovative practice. The most significant recent ones have been Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern, London (2016); and Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017).
Biography by John Hurrell | Ocula | 2020
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