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Robert Rauschenberg Always On View

EDUCATORS RESOURCE

720 South Husband Street, Stillwater, OK 74074 405.744.2780 | museum@okstate.edu | museum.okstate.edu


Artwork Details Reading an Object Label

Artist name, nationality, birth and death date

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925 - 2005)

Artwork title, year completed

Venus Rapture IV, 1991

Materials used to create the work. Sometimes the size is included.

Acrylic, fire wax, and variegated brass leaf on stainless steel, 73 x 97 inches

Credit line – many works in museums are gifts from donors or loans from other museums and patrons.

Private lender

Acquisition number – A unique number that identifies the work. If you want to know more about a work, it is helpful to know this number when asking museum staff about it.

(Because this is a loan, there is not an acquisition number)

This work from ROCI USA embody the interactive experience Rauschenberg intended for his viewers. The reflective surfaces grab the viewers’ attention, Some labels provide the viewer drawing them into the picture space. Open ended in with more context about the meaning, the juxtapositions of images challenge the artwork, like the artists’ life and audience to make connections among them. What influences, or maybe how this work do palm trees and utility poles have to do with a compares to another work, or commercial photography studio? How does a bicycle perhaps some information about relate to a Venus sculpture? As he told an audience the time period when the work was at the opening ROCI Japan, “I want to make you work created. Some provide questions hard. I don’t want to give you any answers.” to consider when viewing the work. By visually positioning viewers in the prints and by This text is usually created by a engaging them intellectually to explore the curator. possibilities of meaning here and in other ROCI works, Rauschenberg sought to activate viewers’ social involvement. The works lobby for appreciation of both the connections and distinctions among cultures around the world as a necessary foundation for world peace.


Artwork Details Reading an Object Label Artist name, nationality, birth and death date. If the artist is still living, the date may look like this: “Born 1925” or “b. 1925”

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925 2005)

Artwork title, year completed.

Narcissus / ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works), 1990

Materials used to create the work. Sometimes the size is included.

Acrylic, enamel, and fire wax on stainless steel, 97 x 73 inches

Credit line – many works in museums are gifts from donors or loans from other museums and patrons.

Private lender

Acquisition number – A unique number that identifies the work. If you want to know more about a work, it is helpful to know this number when asking museum staff about it.

(Because this is a loan, there is not an acquisition number)

This work from ROCI USA embody the interactive experience Rauschenberg intended for his viewers. Some labels provide the viewer The reflective surfaces grab the viewers’ attention, with more context about the drawing them into the picture space. Open ended in artwork, like the artists’ life and meaning, the juxtapositions of images challenge the influences, or maybe how this work audience to make connections among them. What compares to other works, or do palm trees and utility poles have to do with a perhaps some information about commercial photography studio? How does a bicycle the time period when the work was relate to a Venus sculpture? As he told an audience created. Some provide questions at the opening ROCI Japan, “I want to make you work to consider when viewing the work. hard. I don’t want to give you any answers.” This text is usually created by a By visually positioning viewers in the prints and by curator. engaging them intellectually to explore the possibilities of meaning here and in other ROCI works, Rauschenberg sought to activate viewers’ social involvement. The works lobby for appreciation of both the connections and distinctions among cultures around the world as a necessary foundation for world peace.


About the artist (Overview) Robert Rauschenberg’s art has always been one of thoughtful inclusion. Working in a wide range of subjects, styles, materials, and techniques, Rauschenberg has been called a forerunner of essentially every postwar movement since Abstract Expressionism. He remained, however, independent of any particular affiliation. At the time that he began making art in the late 1940s and early 1950s, his belief that “painting relates to both art and life” presented a direct challenge to the prevalent modernist aesthetic. The celebrated Combines, begun in the mid-1950s, brought real-world images and objects into the realm of abstract painting and countered sanctioned divisions between painting and sculpture. These works established the artist’s ongoing dialogue between mediums, between the handmade and the readymade, and between the gestural brushstroke and the mechanically reproduced image. Rauschenberg’s lifelong commitment to collaboration—with performers, printmakers, engineers, writers, artists, and artisans from around the world—is a further manifestation of his expansive artistic philosophy. This text and the following chapter texts are adapted from an essay written by Julia Blaut, “Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective,” @Guggenheim (Fall 1997). For select artworks and more information, visit http://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/artist/early-works-1948-54.

Early Works, 1948-54 Beginning in 1948, Rauschenberg attended Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina. His work at Black Mountain reveals many of the principal themes that recur throughout his oeuvre: sequences and progressions through time, grid formats, doubling and mirroring, and a sense of the human scale. During these formative years Rauschenberg used a wide range of art-making mediums, including printmaking, painting, photography, drawing (both conventional and experimental techniques), and sculpture. As would become his hallmark, he often used them in combination, blurring conventional distinctions between artistic categories. Collaboration with other artists would also remain an impetus throughout his career, and his early work with composer John Cage and dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham inspired him to engage in conceptual modes and performance. Having settled in New York in fall 1949, Rauschenberg was introduced to the work of the Abstract Expressionists and began to incorporate their free brushwork into his own paintings. In the art made both at Black Mountain College and in New York between 1951 and 1953, Rauschenberg expanded on the abstract idiom with the inclusion of recognizable images and materials taken from his immediate environment. He impressed pebbles into the dark pigment of his Night Blooming paintings (1951); the uninflected White Paintings (1951) became screens for light and shadow, responding to the conditions around them; and newspaper collage formed the ground of the series of black paintings (1951–53). Rauschenberg’s collages and sculptures made in 1952–53 while traveling with artist Cy Twombly in Europe and North Africa, introduce his method of combining disparate subjects and contain many of his enduring motifs: body parts, modes of transportation, fine art reproductions, lettering, and diagrams. The small, fetishistic assemblages made in Italy from found materials, as well as the Elemental Sculptures and the Red Paintings begun on his return to New York in 1953, were laboratories for the later Combines.

Expanding Career, 1954-69 For Rauschenberg there was a natural progression from the Red Paintings to the Combines, as twodimensional collage and eventually three-dimensional objects came to the fore. By summer 1954,


Rauschenberg had made the first, fully realized Combine, eliminating all distinctions between painting and sculpture. Expanding on Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the readymade, Rauschenberg imbued new significance to such ordinary objects as a patchwork quilt or an automobile tire by combining unrelated items and incorporating them into the context of art. When Rauschenberg first exhibited the Red Paintings and Combines at the Egan Gallery, New York, in December 1954, critics were baffled by the works, which challenged existing definitions of art. Less than a decade later, however, Rauschenberg’s reputation as the leading artist of his generation was established following his first solo exhibition held in 1963 at the Jewish Museum, New York, and his award the following year of the International Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice Biennale. Of the works by Rauschenberg shown at the U.S. Pavilion were many of his now-celebrated Combines, including Bed (1955), as well as several paintings from a series the artist began in fall 1962, in which he used commercially produced silkscreens based on media sources and his own photographs. Rauschenberg’s use of a commercial means of reproduction and his focus on media subjects in this series led art critics to identify him with the Pop art movement that had recently emerged on the New York art scene in 1962. In comparison with the often coolly executed paintings of the Pop artists, however, Rauschenberg’s works are emphatically gestural and handmade. The silkscreen paintings have an expressive quality that results from their hand-painted areas, the collage-like overlays of photographic images, and the intentional slippage and irregularities, which the artist allowed to remain uncorrected during the screening process. Less than a decade later, however, Rauschenberg’s reputation as the leading artist of his generation was established following his first solo exhibition held in 1963 at the Jewish Museum, New York, and his award the following year of the International Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice Biennale. Of the works by Rauschenberg shown at the U.S. Pavilion were many of his now-celebrated Combines, including Bed (1955), as well as several paintings from a series the artist began in fall 1962, in which he used commercially produced silkscreens based on media sources and his own photographs. Rauschenberg’s use of a commercial means of reproduction and his focus on media subjects in this series led art critics to identify him with the Pop art movement that had recently emerged on the New York art scene in 1962. In comparison with the often coolly executed paintings of the Pop artists, however, Rauschenberg’s works are emphatically gestural and handmade. The silkscreen paintings have an expressive quality that results from their hand-painted areas, the collage-like overlays of photographic images, and the intentional slippage and irregularities, which the artist allowed to remain uncorrected during the screening process.

Mid-Career, 1970s-1980s With his move in 1970 from New York to Captiva Island, off the Gulf Coast of Florida, Rauschenberg cleared his palette. Retreating from urban imagery, he now favored a more abstract idiom and the use of natural fibers, such as fabric and paper. The Cardboards (1971–72) and the Venetians (1972–73) reveal his fascination with the inherent color, texture, and history of found materials. The beautiful and disparate effects of fabrics, ranging from cotton to satin, are explored in the Hoarfrosts (1974–76) and Jammers (1975–76). Collaborations at paper mills in France and India resulted in works where paper pulp was elevated to an art form. A mid-career retrospective was mounted in 1976 by the National Collection of Fine Arts [now the Smithsonian Museum of American Art], Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., when Rauschenberg was selected to honor the American Bicentennial. Having the opportunity to reexamine his early work,


Rauschenberg returned to past concerns. His Spreads (1975–83) and Scales (1977–81) incorporate transferred and screened images as well as assemblage, sometimes in room-scale installations. During the 1980s, Rauschenberg undertook two long-term projects. The first, The ¼ Mile or 2 Furlong Piece, was begun in 1981, and completed in 1998. This multi-part work consists of 191 components and spans more than a quarter mile. Retrospective in character, this piece is replete with references to his life and art.

Late Work, 1992-2008 In his late work, Rauschenberg continued to approach his art with the spirit of invention and with the quest for new material and new technology that was characteristic of his work throughout his career. Beginning in 1992, Rauschenberg used an Iris printer to make digital color prints of his photographs. It is this technology that allowed for the high-resolution images and luminous hues in the large-scale works on paper, the Waterworks (1992–95) and Anagrams (1995–97). In 1996, he transferred the Iris prints to wet plaster in the Arcadian Retreats (a fresco series that provided him with an entirely new avenue of exploration) and onto polylaminate panels in his last three bodies of work, Short Stories (2000–2002), Scenarios (2002–06), and finally, Runts (2006–08). Despite his use of new materials and methods, much of Rauschenberg’s later work looks back at his earlier art and is autobiographical in nature. With the artist’s retrospective exhibition organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1997, which traveled to venues in the United States and Europe, the artist had the opportunity to view the full scope of what at that point had been a fifty-year career. During that same year, Rauschenberg worked in glass for the first time, creating sculptures of his iconic subjects: a tire, a pillow, a shovel, and a broom, each dignified by a silver platform. His monumental Mirthday Man (1997) from the Anagram (A Pun) series made on the occasion of his seventy-second birthday, includes a reproduction of the life-size X-ray of the artist first used in the print Booster (1967), while the imagery in the editioned Ruminations series (2000) refers to important moments and figures in the artist’s early life. Following a stroke in 2002 that leaves his right hand partially paralyzed, the artist continued to work, undeterred, but now with his left hand. During this final decade, he continued his collaborations with performers and printmakers and his commitment to humanitarian causes.


Booking a tour/visit – “Beyond the Classroom” Beyond the Classroom (the OSU Museum of Art’s PK-12 inquiry based tour program) encourages students of all abilities to engage with art and each other by looking deeply, and thinking creatively and critically. Students make personal and curricular connections through discussion, writing, and hands-on activities. We welcome both public school groups and home-schoolers. Admission to the museum is always free. To book a tour, please visit http://museum.okstate.edu/tours. Please be advised that we require at least three weeks advanced notice for tours of 10 or more to allow for appropriate staffing. For more information, to discuss programming, or to request a transportation or substitute teacher subsidy, please contact Carrie Kim, Curator of Education and Programming, at (405)744-2785 or carrie.kim@okstate.edu.

Online Resources Follow the OSU Museum of Art Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/osumuseumofart/ to stay upto-date on all educator resources, news articles, curatorial talks, artist talks, artist presentations, and more. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Art, archives, oral histories, and more. http://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org OSUMA Robert Rauschenberg’s World A Sway Presentation featuring a brief introduction to the artist, select videos, and exhibition description. http://tinyurl.com/zg5z57z Robert Rauschenberg: Pop Art Pioneer BBC Full documentary https://youtu.be/yELmPbQNx9M Robert Rauschenberg: American Collagist, Painter, and Graphic Artist The Art Story – Synopsis, key ideas, most important art, biography, influences, connections, resources http://www.theartstory.org/artist-rauschenberg-robert.htm

Discussion Questions and Lesson Plans LOOKING CLOSELY The longer you look, the more you will see. Take some time to look deeper. This will help you to build stronger connections, understanding, and an appreciation for the work. Find our Educator Resource guide at https://issuu.com/osumuseumofart/docs/toolkit_for_looking_gallery_activit. Focus on One Art – Look at a work of art. What do you see? Now pair up with a friend. You look at one part of the work while your friend examines another part. Discuss what you notice. How do you and your friend’s findings differ? How are they similar? Perhaps you both notice color, or maybe one notices color while the other notices the depth.


Where Does Your Eye Go First? – What do you notice first? Where does your eye travel next? How does the artist guide your eye throughout the work? What tools does the artist use (gesture, line, movement, composition, etc.) to keep you moving throughout the work or to draw your focus to one particular aspect? 30 Second Looking – Look at a work for 30 seconds. Now, turn around and describe the work to a friend. Now, face the artwork again. Find five things you didn’t notice the first time you viewed the work. Reproductions Vs “The Real Thing” – What is the difference between a “real” work of art versus a reproduction? Rauschenberg uses many collaged images in his works to create a new image. How do these combined reproductions interact? What do they have in common, if anything? Are the reproductions changed when he includes other imagery? If so, how?

Reference Images

Robert Rauschenberg, Venus Rapture IV, 1991. Acrylic, fire wax, and variegated brass leaf on stainless steel, 73 x 97 inches.


Robert Rauschenberg, Narcissus / ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works), 1990. Acrylic, enamel, and fire wax on stainless steel, 97 x 73 inches.

Educator Resources: "Rauschenberg's World"  

Explore online resources, reading lists, discussion questions and more to begin your conversation about the art in this exhibition.

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