Robert Rauschenberg (Part Two: Collage, Ex 2.1)

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American artist whose works, using traditional and found materials, forged a path for the pop-art movement of the ’60s (Lancher, 2009).

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, Rauschenberg studied at Kansas City Art Institute, then at Academie Julien Paris. In 1948, he attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he studied under Josef Albers, and befriended fellow artist Jasper Johns (Tompkins, 2005).

The works I find most interesting are from the mid-1950s, when Rauschenberg began using non-traditional items in works he called ‘combines’ (Tompkins, 2005).

Bed (1955)

Combine: oil and pencil on pillow, quilt, and sheet, mounted on wood support 75 1/4 x 31 1/2 x 8 inches (191.1 x 80 x 20.3 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Leo Castelli in honor of Alfred H. Barr Jr.

While Rauschenberg himself claimed to worry people would “want to crawl in it” (Lancher, 2009, p.14), the work is actually very violent. The pillow and sheets have agitated pencil marks, with  bold, splattered oil paint dripping down the quilt. It leaves me feeling unsettled, as though something horrific occurred.

Bantam (1955)

Combine: oil, paper, printed reproductions, cardboard, fabric, and graphite on canvas 11 5/8 x 14 5/8 inches (29.5 x 37.1 cm) The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

The contrast between the NY Yankees across the bottom of the work and the feminine references on the top half are divided by cardboard. The photo of Judy Garland is covered by sheer white gauze, and the reclining woman, by red gauze (a reference to the fact that she’s posing nude?). The slashes of yellow and red paint drips to combine or link the masculine and feminine images.

Rebus (1955)

Combine: oil, synthetic polymer paint, pencil, crayon, pastel, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers, including a drawing by Cy Twombly, and fabric on canvas mounted and stapled to fabric Three panels: 96 x 131 1/8 x 1 3/4 inches (243.8 x 333.1 x 4.4 cm) overall The Museum of Modern Art, New York Partial and promised gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder and purchase

This is perhaps my favorite work of those I’ve seen. The division between the three panels form vertical lines, while the image forms a horizontal line, enforced and supported by a shelf-like row of small colored squares. Near each end are photos of runners. Are they in the same race, and do the pictures and colors in between represent obstacles they must over come? It reminds me of graffiti on a city wall, with the bold, dripping colors and partial printed papers. “THAT REPRE” in the upper left is intriguing. That represents? Represses?

I chose Rauschenberg to research because his works fascinates me and he had such an impact on modern art, but also because he’s a fellow Texan. He was a very prolific and diverse artist: a painter, sculpture, printer, as well as his combines using photography, print and found objects. It’s very difficult to assess art in books and online. I look forward to our NYC visit in October, when I can go to MOMA and see some of Rauschenberg’s works in person.

ETA 9/28/17: Be sure to check out the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit!


Lancher, C. (2009) Robert Rauschenberg. New York: The Museum of Modern Art
Tompkins, C. (2005) Off the wall. New York: Picador

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s