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Account of the life and works of robert rauschenberg

Hugo Hess Music, Gestalt.

Feb. 15 | The Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project: An Oral and Art History Mash-up

Having the great impact on late 20th century visual culture, Robert Rauschenberg was one of the central figures in the development of post-war American art. His works bridge the gap from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements. As a part of Neo-Dada movement, his innovative approach expanded the former boundaries opening the possibilities of experimentation for further artists. Unlike them, Rauschenberg decided to move forward with the new idea of art that repeated the earlier Dada postulates.

His pieces are between these two realms and in constant and indispensable dialogue with the viewers.

About the Artist

As an avid and skilled dancer, he gave up this idea when he realized that the church considers dancing for a sin. He also drew a lot, copying images from comics, but nobody took seriously his talent.

In accordance with the wish of his parents, he attended the University of Texas at Austin where he studied pharmacology. After refusing to dissect the frog, he was expelled and the letter that arrived at the same time calling him to join army actually saved him from the announcement about an early end of his student days. Rejecting the idea of killing people on the battlefield, he served as a medical technician in the Navy Hospital where they cared for the survivors in San Diego.

He changed his name from Milton to Robert, because he thought it sounded more artistic. From 1949 to 1950 he attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina, under one of the Bauhaus artists, Josef Albers whose courses were based on strict discipline deprived of experiments. Later, Rauschenberg described his teacher as a respectful man influencing him to do exactly the reverse as his departure point in the world painting.

  • A few years later he broke his hip which led to a stroke and the paralyzing of his right side;
  • From the mid sixties through the seventies he continued the experimentation in prints by printing onto aluminum, moving plexiglass disks, clothes, and other surfaces.

Robert Rauschenberg started to use the roller for the application of the white house paint onto his canvases that were under deliberate influence of their surroundings, reflecting every change of shadows. At the same time, Rauschenberg was explored the black as the total opposite and his Black Paintings 1951 were painted with the thick layers of paint, but with the implementation of newspaper scraps.

Some of the major influences occurred during his stay at the Black Mountain College, referring to his encounter with minimalist composer John Cage and the choreographer Merce Cunningham who were the teachers there. They both have been the supporters of the use of chance methods, found objects and common experiences within high art. Using the silk-screen stencil technique that would later be adopted by Andy Warholhe created refined compositions inspired by the themes from modern American History and popular culture.

Upcoming Events

In fall 1952, Rauschenberg was divorced and after the Weil took their son and left to live with her parents, the artist decided to travel Europe and North Africa with Cy Twombly, his colleague from the Art Students League and intimate partner. That was the time when he made his first assemblage from the junk he found in the Italian countryside. His return to the United states was followed by further experiments in painting, with the red color this time.

Rauschenberg coined the name of his innovative works, calling them combines because they represent the mixture of paint and practically sculpture on the canvas. His field of action also included photography, printmaking, and performance.

  1. From the mid sixties through the seventies he continued the experimentation in prints by printing onto aluminum, moving plexiglass disks, clothes, and other surfaces. His Dada-based theories about the definition of art helped the foundation of Conceptual art, later performances had a source in his collaboration with John Cage and his tendency to borrowing images from popular media and fine art influenced postmodern aesthetic of appropriation.
  2. Robert Rauschenberg started to use the roller for the application of the white house paint onto his canvases that were under deliberate influence of their surroundings, reflecting every change of shadows. Rauschenberg transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes.
  3. Having the great impact on late 20th century visual culture, Robert Rauschenberg was one of the central figures in the development of post-war American art. From 1949 to 1950 he attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina, under one of the Bauhaus artists, Josef Albers whose courses were based on strict discipline deprived of experiments.

Gathering garbage from the streets of New York, Rauschenberg implemented those found object into his work, giving them a new meaning. Combines refer to his work from 1954 to 1962, but he combined both painting and different objects throughout his career.

At the end of 1953, Rauschenberg met the young painter Jasper Johns and two years later they started to live together, becoming romantic and artistic partners. Compared to the relationship that Pablo Picasso had with Georges Braque, two artists spent their time exchanging ideas and encouraging their mutual exploration that moved the boundaries of the known in art.

They shared the same philosophy that shaped Neo-Dada style, adopting the accidental beauty in everyday life instead of the coded psychology of Abstract Expressionism.

By this time, his name already became respected within the art world. His American fame was followed by the European, after the exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London and Venice Biennale in 1964 when he won the first prize for painting, the first one assigned to an American.

He visited primarily Communist countries, in spite of current American Cold War policies organizing exhibitions of his work inspired by the host country.

  • His combines and silkscreen printing experiments led to the further development of the same techniques by the hand of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein;
  • He also drew a lot, copying images from comics, but nobody took seriously his talent.

In 1996 Rauschenberg went on a rehabilitation from alcoholism which deteriorated his health. A few years later he broke his hip which led to a stroke and the paralyzing of his right side.

White, Black and Red Series

Still, he learned to use his left hand which enabled him to work until his death on May 12, 2008, from heart failure. His combines and silkscreen printing experiments led to the further development of the same techniques by the hand of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. His Dada-based theories about the definition of art helped the foundation of Conceptual art, later performances had a source in his collaboration with John Cage and his tendency to borrowing images from popular media and fine art influenced postmodern aesthetic of appropriation.

Today, his Foundation possess his works from every period. Robert Rauschenberg, photo via observer.

  • He visited primarily Communist countries, in spite of current American Cold War policies organizing exhibitions of his work inspired by the host country;
  • Later, Rauschenberg described his teacher as a respectful man influencing him to do exactly the reverse as his departure point in the world painting.