Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning (1953)

Robert Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) one of the great artists loosely affiliated with the NY School, died yesterday. He had lived to the ripe old age of 84 and still was active toward the end.  His paintings, combines, mixed-media along with his work with the Merce Cunningham dance company leave an amazing, varied legacy. His work was highly influential on the NY School of Composers especially John Cage who cited his White Paintings as “allowing” him to do his “silent piece” (4’33”) which he had apparently been contemplating for a number of years. That piece of course is still reverberating today even though it was something that Cage was able to do and continue to press ahead.  Rauschenberg likewise did not sit still making white painting after white painting he continued on with incredible mixed-media work that he called Combines, that really shocked the art world of the time but have come to be ubiquitous in the present day.

I myself have seen Rauschenberg’s at MoMA, the Met, SAM and a few other major galleries and have liked some that I saw quite a bit while others not as much.  I’m not aware of any of his combines being on display in a venue that I’ve been able to attend but I’d love to see some of those in person.  His works that I have seen always reveal far, far more in person, the layers, edges of things revealed, the texture and depths of the pieces don’t come through as well in photographs.  While I was aware of his connection to the NY School and kept an eye out for his works in galleries as I’d go through them it was really reading Calvin Tompkins, The Bride and the Bachelors last year that really got me intrigued with his works.  He seemed so unassuming, a naturally driven artist, always questioning and subverting the common order.  It is the questioning of assumptions that draws me to so many artists and Rauschenberg seemed to have a charming child like innocence to it all; genuine questioning not just trying to be cutting edge.  A DVD has fairly recently been put out of his piece Open Score from the 9 Evenings series that has been on my to buy list for a while. I think I will move it to the top of the list.

Read the fairly thorough NY Time obit.
Check out this nice YouTube video of Rauschenberg talking about the Erased de Kooning.