d. May 12, 2008
Robert Rauschenberg was an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Rauschenberg is well-known for his "Combines" of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor and the Combines are a combination of both, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993.
Rauschenberg's approach was sometimes called 'Neo-Dada', a label he shared with the painter Jasper Johns , with whom he had a long artistic and personal relationship.
Rauschenberg's oft-repeated quote that he wanted to work 'in the gap between art and life', suggested a questioning of the distinction between art objects and everyday objects reminiscent of the issues raised by the notorious 'Fountain' of Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp. At the same time, Johns' paintings of numerals, flags, and the like, were reprising Duchamp's message of the role of the observer in creating art's meaning.
By 1962, Rauschenberg's paintings were beginning to incorporate not only found objects but found images as well - photographs transferred to the canvas by means of the silkscreen process. Previously used only in commercial applications, silkscreen allowed Rauschenberg to address the multiple reproducibility of images, and the consequent flattening of experience that that implies. In this respect, his work is exactly contemporaneous with that of Andy Warhol, and both Rauschenberg and Johns are frequently cited as important forerunners of American Pop Art.
In addition to painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg's long career has also included significant contributions to printmaking and Performance Art. He also won a Grammy Award for his album design of the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues.
Gay Artist Robert Rauschenberg Dead at 82
Let's not assign gay artists to the obituary closet
OUR PICASSO? by Jerry Saltz