May 13, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg has died.

Links to obituaries to follow.

Here's an old post of mine about him, from back in 2004:
Robert Rauschenberg answers some questions from Deborah Solomon in today's NYT:
Aren't you having another show now at Yale?

Yes. I am not happy with it. It was organized by the gay studies department, whatever that is. It's not an approach that makes sense. I refused to give them permission to reproduce the works in a catalog.
Hmmm.... a little more info would be nice! There's this description:
"Robert Rauschenberg: Gifts to Terry Van Brunt'' features about 40 pieces that Rauschenberg gave as presents to his former lover, Terry Van Brunt. ... Jonathan Katz, an associate professor at Yale who launched the gay and lesbian studies program there in 2002, organized the exhibit.

"Rauschenberg himself does not want the work talked about in a gay context,'' Katz said. "But I am not responsible to the artist's wishes. I am responsible to the work.''

The collection includes "Bob's Face With Fly,'' a self-portrait that shows a fly on Rauschenberg's face, and "Terry's Briefcase Piece,'' a briefcase that was painted and collaged. Katz believes the exhibit is important because it shows how Rauschenberg's personal life has shaped his work.
Meanwhile, back in the NYT interview, Rauschenberg is presenting himself as impersonally as possible. He speaks of painting from photographs. Asked “What sort of photographs do you prefer?,” he asserts that he “likes photographs of anything uninteresting. Maybe just two doors on a wall.” Asked “What is so great about the ordinary anyhow?, he answers, “I find the quietness in the ordinary much more satisfying." Asked if at 78, he thinks about dying, he says “No. Not at all” and tells a hackneyed anecdote about someone else. Asked why he left New York in 1970 to go live by the ocean in Florida, he alludes to a feeling of responsibility about “everybody … leaving their spouses,” then says a fortuneteller told him “it wasn't my fault but that I should go to sunshine and water” and he “was pleased with that.” He gives as the secret to happiness “enjoy[ing] something simple, like just looking at the ocean.”

ADDED: Here's the NYT obit — a very big one. Excerpt:
“Everyone was trying to give up European aesthetics,” he recalled, meaning Picasso, the Surrealists and Matisse. “That was the struggle, and it was reflected in the fear of collectors and critics. John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.”

Cage acquired a painting from the Betty Parsons show [in 1951]. Aside from that, Mr. Rauschenberg sold absolutely nothing. Grateful, he agreed to host Cage at his loft. As Mr. Rauschenberg liked to tell the story, the only place to sit was on a mattress. Cage started to itch. He called Mr. Rauschenberg afterward to tell him that his mattress must have bedbugs and that, as Cage was going away for a while, Mr. Rauschenberg could stay at his place. Mr. Rauschenberg accepted the offer. In return, he decided he would touch up the painting Cage had acquired, as a kind of thank you, painting it all-black, being in the midst of his new, all-black period. When Cage returned, he was not amused.

“We both thought, ‘Here was somebody crazier than I am,’ ” Mr. Rauschenberg recalled. In 1952 Mr. Rauschenberg switched to all-white paintings, which were, in retrospect, spiritually akin to Cage’s famous silent piece of music, during which a pianist sits for 4 minutes and 33 seconds at the keyboard without making a sound. Mr. Rauschenberg’s paintings, like the music, in a sense became both Rorschachs and backdrops for ambient, random events like passing shadows. “I always thought of the white paintings as being not passive but very — well, hypersensitive,” he told an interviewer in 1963. “So that people could look at them and almost see how many people were in the room by the shadows cast, or what time of day it was.”


vbspurs said...


Favourite Rauschenberg

You were an art design student no, Ann? Do you have a fave work of his?


Palladian said...

He had every right not to want his work to be co-opted by the identity politicians. Stupid people cannot understand that art is larger and deeper than autobiography.

I have reservations about Rauschenberg's post-1960s work, but he was greatly influential to me when I was young.

paul a'barge said...

He was a true son of Texas. Read more about him here

George said...

Making tracks

MadisonMan said...

I have never heard of this person. Does that say more about modern art or about me?

Palladian said...

"Does that say more about modern art or about me?"

A question that, depending who you are, answers itself.

Smilin' Jack said...

"I always thought of the white paintings as being not passive...people could look at them and almost see how many people were in the room by the shadows cast, or what time of day it was.”

Must be in the eye of the beholder. To me they seem like a self-portrait, depicting only the vacuous, boring pretentiousness of their creator.

Henry said...

The other famous person from Port Arthur Texas was Janis Joplin. They met once.

I think Rauschenberge's art is pretty silly, for the most part, but I like his sensibility. He didn't seem to take himself or the artworld at all seriously, which itself is a kind of beautiful thing.

vbspurs said...

The other famous person from Port Arthur Texas was Janis Joplin. They met once.

Another classmate was the legendary former Dallas Cowboys/Miami Dolphins coach, Jimmy Johnson.

I remember reading that when he was U of Miami coach. Upon looking it up on IMDB, it said:

"Jimmy Johnson, [...] gave her her nickname of "Beat Weeds"."


chuck b. said...

I always enjoyed RR's work some--esp. enjoy his constant return to certain subjects, e.g., the flag, but it's more the constant return that I enjoy than the work itself. He dispensed with the element of mystery that I so enjoy. Without it, my brain just slides right off the surface. I wonder, "Does this want me to talk to it?"

tituseverythingscomingup roses said...

Homos are everywhere. They are taking over this country.


Joachim Arnerholm said...

Our "Swedish" Rauschenberg :


Text in Swedish, mind you...

somefeller said...

Here's a great line from the bio linked above.

After the war he returned to Port Arthur to discover his family had moved to Louisiana.

Gotta hate it when that happens. Rest in peace, Robert Rauschenberg.

vbspurs said...

Joachim, broken link. ;(

redant34 said...

someone is gay, although they married twice? I guess labels kinda suc. But I don't know the whole story.