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Last updated: 9-14-12
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Pop Art in the U.S. and Europe: Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008)

Valerio Adami, Joan Gardy Artigas, Richard Avedon, Enrico Baj, Elizabeth Blackadder, Richard Bosman, Christo, Robert Cottingham, Allan D'Arcangelo, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, R. B. Kitaj, Nicholas Krushenick, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Lindner, Claes Oldenburg, Peter Phillips, Mel Ramos, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, James Rosenquist, George Segal, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Saul Steinberg, Andy Warhol, John Wesley, and Tom Wesselmann
Rauschenberg was born at Port Arthur, Texas in 1925. In 1942 he studied pharmacy briefly at the University of Texas, following which he served in the U.S. Marines. During 1947–48 he studied various subjects at the Kansas City Art Institute, including art history, sculpture and music. During this time he did window displays, executed film sets and designed photographic studios. In 1948 he attended the Académie Julian, Paris, met Susan Weil, who was later to become his wife, and returned to the USA to study under Joseph Albers at the Black Mountain College, North Carolina. There he met the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage in 1949 and collaborated closely with both of them. In the same year he moved to New York and studied at the Art Students' League until 1952. He did window displays for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany, had his first one-man exhibitions in 1951 and returned to Black Mountain College in 1952. He travelled in Italy, France and Spain and had exhibition in 1953 at Florence and Rome. He moved into a studio in New York in the same year and started to paint his red pictures, replacing the all-white and all-black paintings. He erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning and exhibited it as Erased de Kooning. Between 1954 and 1965 he intensified his work for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In 1955 he moved into a studio in the same neighborhood as Jasper Johns. In 1958 he had his first exhibition at the Leo Castelli gallery and began his drawings to illustrate Dante's Inferno. In 1959 he was represented at the documenta "2", Kassel, and at the Paris and São Paulo Biennales. In 1960 he met Marcel Duchamp. In 1962 he first used the technique of silkscreen on canvas, mixed with painting, collage and affixed objects. He also did his first lithographs, for which he was awarded the Grand Prix at the World Print Biennale in Ljubljana. In 1963 he was given his first retrospective exhibition in Europe at the Galerie Sonnabend, Paris; it was also shown at the Jewish Museum, New York. He produced his first dance performance Pelican. In 1964 he had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and won the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale. He went on world tour with Cage and Cunningham's Dance Company. In 1967 he made his Revolvers - with revolving plexiglass discs. That year (the same year as Martin Luther King) he was made honorary doctor of Grinnel College, Iowa. In 1968 he was invited by NASA to witness the lift-off of Apollo 11 at Kennedy Space Center and to use this theme in his work. He set up the foundation Change Inc. for destitute artists in 1970, and a house with art studios in Florida in 1971. In 1974 he collaborated with the writer Alain Robbe-Grillet. He also travelled to Israel and India. In 1975 he received the Honorary Degree of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida, Tampa, and, together with James Rosenquist, became involved in appealing for a re-examination of taxation for non-profitmaking art institutions. A large retrospective of his work was shown in several American cities from 1976-78. In 1980 he had retrospectives at Berlin, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Munich and London. In 1981 his photographs were shown at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He lives in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida. In 1989 his work went on world tour, including an exhibition in Moscow. (Based on the biography at WWW.PopArt)

In an August 27 2000 New York Times article, Michael Kimmelman offers some insights into Rauschenberg's art: "I was mostly rejected by the visual art world," Mr. Rauschenberg says about the early 50's. "But this turned out to be very lucky for me because my interest in life led me to be involved with musicians and dancers and they became my friends. Not just John and Merce but also Morty Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown. The problems they were having, I thought, had a lot more to do with painting than the problems of the people at the Cedar Bar, who were just whining about how the latest collector in town had bought a de Kooning instead of one of their paintings. The fastest way to become unpopular at the Cedar Bar was to sell something." The high-beam smile appears. "The thing about the people I was close to in my career is that they wouldn't have been survivors if they didn't have a sense of humor. I remember one time John and Merce were walking ahead of Morty and me, and I was asking Morty how he was doing. 'Haven't you heard?' Morty said. 'I'm the toast of two continents. Australia and Africa.' Those guys didn't get any more encouragement than I did, but they just continued with a vibrancy for life. "I've always been kind of envious of them because they had professions that depended on the moment. That's why I like dancers and musicians -- because I feel that art can be like furniture, static, clumsy. The whole point of collaboration is to counteract that. For me, art shouldn't be a fixed idea that I have before I start making it. I want it to include all the fragility and doubt that I go through the day with. Sometimes I'll take a walk just to forget whatever good idea I had that day because I like to go into the studio not having any ideas. I want the insecurity of not knowing, like performers feel before a performance. Everything I can remember, and everything I know, I have probably already done, or somebody else has."

Rauschenberg's art has long been featured at galleries and museums including the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the The Jewish Museum, 1 in NY, the National Gallery of Art and the National Collection of Fine Arts of the Smithsonian, the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Ringling Museum of Art, the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Jewish Museum, the Tate Gallery, London, the Fondation Maeght, the Kunsthalle in Tubingen, the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Berlin, the Dusseldorf Kunstsammlungen, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and many others. His works are in the collections of most major museums in the world.

Selected Bibliography: Gotz Adriani and Karin Thomas, Robert Rauschenberg: Zeichnungen, Gouachen, Collagen (Tubingen: Kunsthalle / Munich: Piper, 1979); Lawrence Alloway, Robert Rauschenberg (Washington D.C.: National Collection of Fine Arts, 1976); Roni Feinstein, Robert Rauschenberg: The Silkscreen Paintings 1962-64 with a contribution by Calvin Tomkins (NY: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1990) Andrew Forge, Rauschenberg (NY: Abrams [1978]); Edward A. Foster, Robert Rauschenberg: Prints 1948/1970 (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1970); Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, Robert Rauschenberg, a retrospective (NY: Guggenheim Museum, 1997); Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg (Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa, 1999); Mary Lynn Kotz, Robert Rauschenberg: Art & Life (NY: Abrams, 1990); National Gallery of Art, Roci: Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991); Mark Ormond, Rauschenberg: Works from the Salvage Series (Sarasota: Ringling Museum of Art, 1985); Stephen Prokopoff, Rauschenberg Graphic Art (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1970); Robert Rauschenberg, Peintures Recentes (St Paul de Vence: Fondation Maeght, 1984); Luke Rombout, Rauschenberg: Works from Captiva (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1978); Barbara Rose, Rauschenberg (NY: Vintage Books, 1987); Alan R. Solomon, Robert Rauschenberg (NY: The Jewish Museum, 1963); Dean Swanson, Robert Rauschenberg: Paintings 1953-1964 (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1965); Tate Gallery, Robert Rauschenberg (London: Tate Gallery, n.d.); Calvin Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors—Five Masters of the Avant-Garde: Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham (NY: Penguin, 1981); E. de Wilde, Robert Rauschenberg. Werke 1950-1980 (Berlin: Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1980); Stedelijk Museum Robert Rauschenberg Illustraties Voor Dantes Inferno [Illustrations for Dante's Inferno] (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1965); A. Zweeite, Robert Rauschenberg (Dusseldorf: Kunstsammlungen NRW, 1994).
Why Can't You Tell #1. Original silkscreen and collage with offset lithography, 1979. 100 signed, dated, and numbered impressions, of which ours is 92/100, plus several artist's proofs. Printed by Styria Studios on BFK Rives paper with their blindstamp lower right. This print involves solvent transfer of printed images and fabric collage and is an attempt to achieve on paper the some of the effects of Rauschenberg's painted and collaged combines. This print (showing the collaging outside the edge of the paper, showing the solvent stains next to the collage and in the area surrounding the transferred images) is clearly about the process of making art, which, Rauschenberg suggests here, and in many other of his works, can be messy. Like the combines he was doing and which are clearly not about neatness, this work is about the messiness of creation more than anything else. Image size: 775x587mm. Price:SOLD.
Tribute to Merce Cunningham. Original silkscreen with collage, pochoir, and pencil, 1984. 100 signed and numbered impressions. Ours is one of two printer's proofs. Image size: 720x474mm. Price: SOLD.
Most distant visible part of the sea / Umbrellas. Original offset litho. with collage, embossing, and pencil, 1983. 125 signed and numbered impressions, 5 Presentation Proofs, 2 HC, 2 Printer's Proofs, and 13 unnumbered Trial Proofs. Printed by Larry B. Wright and published by PACT Inc., Clearwater, Florida. Ours is one of two printer's proofs. Image size: 713x525mm. Price: SOLD.

Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

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