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Robert Rauschenberg

 (1925 - 2008)
Robert Rauschenberg was active/lived in New York, Florida.  Robert Rauschenberg is known for assemblage, non objective painting, set design.

Robert Rauschenberg

    ROW-shen-berg    click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born with the name Milton Rauschenberg in Port Arthur, Texas, Robert Rauschenberg became one of the major artists of his generation and is credited along with Jasper Johns of breaking the stronghold of Abstract Expressionism*.

Rauschenberg was known for assemblage*, conceptualist methods, printmaking, and willingness to experiment with non-artistic materials--all innovations that anticipated later movements such as Pop Art*, Conceptualism*, and Minimalism*.

In May, 1999, ARTNews magazine featured him as one of the top twenty-five influential western artists, stating: "His irreverent notions of what an artwork could be gained him the status of an enfant terrible. . .Rauschenberg pushed the viewer to accept the unexpected."

He has said that he believes painting should relate to both life and art and that he wants is artwork to be the intermediary between the two.

He received much formal art education beginning with the Kansas City Art Institute in 1947 and 1948.  He studied briefly in Paris at the Academie Julian*, and from 1948 to 1949 was at Black Mountain College* in North Carolina with Josef and Anni Albers.  This period was followed by several years attendance at the Art Students League* in New York City with Morris Kantor and Vaclav Vytlacil.  In 1951, he exhibited all white and black paintings incorporating viewer participation through the shadows they cast on the works.

At Black Mountain College, he had met composer, John Cage, and dancer- choreographer, Merce Cunningham, for whom he worked in his company as a designer, manager, and performer.  Frequently he scoured the area in which they were performing for 'unusual' objects such as tires, old radios, and a stuffed goat, which he could use in the set designs.  From 1953, Rauschenberg also made designs for Paul Taylor's dance company.

He also pioneered electronics in art and collaborated with engineer Billy Kluver to create environmental works that manipulate light, shadow, and sound in interact with the viewer.  Printmaking* was another aspect of his career, and by the late 1950s, he was incorporating newsprint into his paintings.  He would use lighter fluid to rub newsprint onto canvases, making the news of that day part of the painting.  Influenced by Andy Warhol, he did a series of Silkscreen Paintings between 1962 and 1964 to divert himself from the medium of collage*, with which he was becoming bored.

He traveled widely, from Maylasia to Mexico, ever looking for new materials and subjects.

Robert Rauschenberg died on Monday, May 12, 2008 in Florida.

Sources include
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from the Archives of askART

The following was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California:

Robert Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas of German and Cherokee Indian heritage. He was given the name of Milton and he changed it to Robert when he became a young man.  In 1942 he enrolled in pharmaceutical studies at the University of Texas and soon after was drafted and later discharged from the U.S. Marines.

A talent for sketching along with a friendship with a girl named Pat Pearman, led him to enroll in the Kansas City Art Institute where he studied music, sculpture and art history.  It was all so new to him and so exciting that he took every class he could and literally ran from class to class.  The following year he went on to Paris where he studied at the Academie Julian under the GI Bill.  In Paris, he met Susan Weil, an artist who led him in 1948 to study with Josef Albers at North Carolina's Black Mountain College.  He had never even heard of Albers who turned out to provide him with the discipline he needed but also was cruel and very intimidating.  This period was followed by several years' attendance at the Art Students League in New York City with Morris Kantor and Vaclav Vytlacil.

In 1950 Rauschenberg and Weil were married; they had one son and were divorced in 1952.  In 1952 he met Jasper Johns and for the next five years the two artists were inseparable.  They worked together on window displays for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany.  He had met the composer John Cage and dance choreographer Merce Cunningham at Black Mountain College and he worked with them as a designer, manager and performer.  He also made designs for Paul Taylor's dance company.

Sources include:
Time Magazine, September 18, 1964
Extra Sensory Perception by Kristine McKenna in Los Angeles Times Calendar Section, Sunday,
November 24, 1996
From the Internet

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art
Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1925, Robert Rauschenberg imagined himself first as a minister and later as a pharmacist.  It wasn't until 1947, while in the U.S. Marines, that he discovered his aptitude for drawing and his interest in the artistic representation of everyday objects and people.  After leaving the Marines, he studied art in Paris on the G.I. Bill, but quickly became disenchanted with the European art scene.

After less than a year, he moved to North Carolina, where the country's most visionary artists and thinkers, such as Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller, were teaching at Black Mountain College.  There, alongside artists such as dancer Merce Cunningham and musician John Cage, Rauschenberg began what was to be an artistic revolution.  Soon, North Carolina country life began to seem small and he left for New York to make it as a painter.  In New York, amidst the chaos and excitement of city life, Rauschenberg realized the full extent of what he could bring to painting.

Rauschenberg's enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting.  He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist's reach.  He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting.  By 1958, at the time of his first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, his work had moved from abstract painting to drawings like "Erased De Kooning" (1953) (which was exactly as it sounds) to what he termed "combines."  These combines (meant to express both the finding and forming of combinations in three-dimensional collage) cemented his place in art history.

One of Rauschenberg's first and most famous combines was entitled Monogram (1959) and consisted of an unlikely set of materials: a stuffed angora goat, a tire, a police barrier, the heel of a shoe, a tennis ball, and paint.  This pioneering work altered the course of modern art.  The idea of combining and of noticing combinations of objects and images has remained at the core of Rauschenberg's work.

As Pop Art emerged in the 1960s, Rauschenberg turned away from three-dimensional combines and began to work in two dimensions, using magazine photographs of current events to create silk-screen graphic prints.  Rauschenberg transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes.  They looked like abstractions from a distance, but up close the images related to each other, as if in conversation.  These collages were a way of bringing together the inventiveness of his combines with his love for painting.  Using this new method he found he could make a commentary on contemporary society using the very images that helped to create that society.

From the mid sixties through the seventies he continued the experimentation in printmaking by printing onto aluminum, moving plexiglass disks, clothes, and other surfaces.  He challenged the view of the artist as auteur by assembling engineers to help in the production of pieces technologically designed to incorporate the viewer as an active participant in the work.  He also created performance pieces centered around chance.  To watch dancers on roller-skates (Pelican, 1963) or to hear the sound of a gong every time a tennis ball was hit (Open Score, 1966), was to witness an art that exchanged lofty ambitions for a sense of excitement and playfulness while still retaining meaning.

Throughout the '80s and '90s Rauschenberg continued his experimentation, concentrating primarily on collage and new ways to transfer photographs.  In 1998 The Guggenheim Museum put on its largest exhibition ever with four hundred works by Rauschenberg, showcasing the breadth and beauty of his work, and its influence over the second half of the century.

Rauschenberg died in May 2008, of heart failure, at his home on Captiva Island, FL at the age of 82.  Building on the legacies of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and others, he helped obscure the lines between painting and sculpture, painting and photography, photography and printmaking, sculpture and photography, sculpture and dance, sculpture and technology, technology and performance art — not to mention between art and life.

"I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly…because they're surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable."

Select Museum Collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Guggenheim Museum, NYC
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, NYC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Houston Museum of Fine Arts, TX
Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
Norton Simon Museum, CA
Museum of Modern Art Los Angeles, CA
Guggenheim Berlin, Germany
Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
Tate Gallery, London

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange

Robert Rauschenberg began life in 1925 in Port Arthur, Texas.  In retrospect, it seems from that point on it has been his self-appointed mission to bridge what he calls the "gap between art and life"; a goal not so distant from that of his Christian fundamentalist upbringing.  Collectively, his works represent a life time's testimony of the day-to-day experience in modern cities and culture. In fact, Rauschenberg was the defining factor that swayed contemporary modern art away from Abstract Expressionism towards Pop Art.

Rauschenberg began making assemblage and multimedia works that he is best known for in the mid '50s after he spent a tumultuous period of searching for direction in his life.  Beginning in 1942, Rauschenberg enrolled in pharmaceutical studies at the University of Texas and soon after was drafted and later discharged from the U. S. Marines.  From 1947 to 1948 he spent studying music, sculpture, and art history at the Kansas City Art Institute.  The following year Rauschenberg attended the Academie Julian in Paris, where he met his future wife.  When he returned to the U. S. he began to study under Joseph Albers at the reputable Blacks Mountain College in North Carolina.

Rauschenberg moved to New York in 1949 to begin his career.  He worked on window displays for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany, had his first one-man exhibition in 1951, returned to Blacks Mountain College for a brief period and from there escaped to Europe.  All of his experiences with the arts: the thriving cities and cultural centers of Europe, a deep connection with music and dance, his formal artistic training, would serve as inspiration for his works as well as carry prolonged effect on the quality and development of the artist's life in art.

Rauschenberg has been referred to as the Father of Pop Art.  His appropriation of images from magazines and newspapers, the feeling of domestic interior design, and the segments of paint in an abstract style mark him as a pivotal figure in art history.  His subject matter often focuses on modern urban city-life, revealing his preoccupation with the affects of modernization like most artists of the 20th century, including Dadaist Marcel Duchamp.

The union of 2-D imagery and 3-D objects incorporating the spontaneity of Action Painting, display his deep-rooted love for dance and music as well his connection to Dada and his foreshadowing of Pop Art. Pop Art formed as a reaction to and as a way of making fun of the mass-cultural environment that it depicted and whose existence permitted such an art form to flourish.  Rauschenberg was heavily influenced by the mischievous art of Dada.  His friendship with Marcel Duchamp affected Rauschenberg's approach to his combine paintings by adding compositional confusion, the paradox and oxymoron, the clever satire and irony, of a Dada collage.  Both Pop Art and Dada are alike in their attempts to make fun of modern life, thus connecting them to Rauschenberg.

As recent as January 1998, the Guggenheim Museum launched an impressive retrospective covering his career of more than 50 years pushing him into the forefront of the minds of collectors, historians, and the general public at large all over the world.  The Guggenheim in fact re-affirms Rauschenberg's success.  He more than accomplished his goal: to act in the gap between art and life.

Biography from
Process, object, environment and artist intertwine in Robert Rauschenberg's work. He embodies most of the ideas of this century's modern art, yet his powerful, idiosyncratic works are like those of no other artist.

Born Milton Rauschenberg in Texas in 1925, he received a sound art education.  He attended Kansas City Art Institute in 1947, and then the renowned Academie Julian in Paris in 1948.

He returned to the United States to attend Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1949. There he studied under abstract painter Josef Albers, one of the emigres who, seeking refuge in the United States from Europe's devastation, had galvanized American art. There, too, he formed professional relationships with avant-garde composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Rauschenberg continued on to New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League until 1952. From then until 1953, he traveled in Northern Africa and Italy.

His first works included collage, and he was involved in the production of perhaps the first impromptu theatrical "happening," a performance of John Cage's Theater Piece #1 (1952).  His "combine paintings" of the 1950s combined, at first, paint and objects from his own past, but later included more "found" materials like photographs that had no personal connection with the artist.  He turned to planning and costuming stage performances, particula4y dance, in the 1960s, and in the 1970s he produced constructions of fragile and ephemeral materials.

From the beginning, Rauschenberg's work contained nontraditional materials, was exhibited in a nontraditional setting, and refused categorization. Although he rejected the serious, self-important, personal emotionality of the abstract expressionist painters, his brushwork is expressive and emotive. His incorporation of mundane objects-such as bed linens, license plates, or tires-into his assemblages heavily influenced the growth of pop art and neo-dadaism in the 1960s, but the effect is neither banal and cynical like pop, nor deliberately chaotic and negative like dada.

Unlike his contemporaries Larry Rivers and Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg had restless inventiveness that make his works difficult to categorize.  He has always been willing to explore new possibilities, including combining paintings with music or performance, and using blue-prints, electronics, silkscreen and-most recently-ephemeral materials such as cardboard in his paintings.

Rauschenberg 's work is contradictory.  He sees the artist as a participant or reporter rather than a creator, but the stamp of his style and personality is evident in each of his paintings.  Though his is an art of the concept, the idea, there is evident enjoyment in his engagement with the medium of expression and the material world.  Whatever the judgment of later generations, Robert Rauschenberg is regarded as a tremendously influential force in twentieth-century art.

Biography from The Johnson Collection
One could say that Robert Rauschenberg was all over the map, literally and figuratively. Born in Texas, he studied in North Carolina, came of age artistically in New York, traveled extensively abroad, and spent his last three decades in Florida. Rauschenberg was a remarkably versatile talent and innovative technician who embraced abstraction, photography, borrowed sources, and tangible objects to create a repertoire of imagery uniquely his own—most notably, his signature two and three-dimensional “combines.” He was based in the SoHo district of New York in the early 1950s when Abstract Expressionism raged, but pivotal to his evolution as an artist was the time he spent at Black Mountain College, as both student and artist-in-residence.

Milton Ernest Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas, a booming center of the petrochemical industry. He joined the Navy in 1944 and afterward studied on the GI Bill at the Kansas City Art Institute and in Paris. It was then that he changed his name to “Bob,” later formalizing it to “Robert.” He first went to the experimental enclave at Black Mountain in the fall of 1948, staying through the next summer. His encounters with the slightly rigid Josef Albers, the domineering head of the art curriculum, were fraught with tension. Albers heartily disapproved of the freewheeling young artist; nevertheless, Rauschenberg learned much from the German master, especially in regard to color theory and combining different materials and textures, the focus of a course called “Surfaces.”

Rauschenberg maintained important liaisons with many creative individuals: the musician John Cage and the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, whom he met at Black Mountain; and the artists Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns. The interaction with Johns was particularly dynamic; they worked together as window designers for Tiffany’s and Bonwit Teller’s, disdained Abstract Expressionism, and encouraged one another to pursue their individual artistic visions.

Much of Rauschenberg’s oeuvre is autobiographical. The most classic example is Bed, the 1955 combine in which he used his own bed—complete with sheets, quilt, and pillow—as the canvas for a painting. Soon after, in 1963, the Jewish Museum in New York gave Rauschenberg his first career retrospective, which helped to launch him on the international stage the next year at the Venice Biennale. The ensuing years saw many exhibitions at such prestigious museums as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Centre Pompidou in Paris. In addition to his achievements as a visual and performance artist, Rauschenberg was also a political activist opposed to the war in Vietnam. In 1984, he established the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI), a philanthropic initiative aimed to promote understanding through artistic dialogue. The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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About  Robert Rauschenberg

Born:  1925 - Port Arthur, Texas
Died:   2008 - Captiva, Florida
Known for:  assemblage, non objective painting, set design

Essays referring to
Robert Rauschenberg