Text in Art 5. – Robert Rauschenberg


Robert Rauschenberg. 1925 – 2008, was an American artist whose name became known as a member of the 1950s New York movement away from Abstract Expressionism and into Pop Art. In the 1950s Rauschenberg created ‘Combines:’ combinations of found objects, image transfers, photographs, collage and paint. Inspired by the Dada path already blazed by Kurt Schwitters (see previous post), Rauschenberg collected garbage and interesting objects from New York streets and integrated them so that they formed artworks inhabiting a space that hovered between painting and sculpture. Rauschenberg was quoted as saying that he wanted to work “in the gap between art and life” suggesting that he questioned the distinction between art objects and everyday objects. This also relates back to questions posed by the Dadaists: Schwitters, Duchamp and their ilk. No wonder Rauschenberg was labeled a ‘Neo-Dadaist’.

Much of the urban refuse collected by Rauschenberg included newspapers, letters, posters and advertising debris. He incorporated these into his Combines and I show some examples of these in the gallery of this post because they exemplify the next chronological step of ‘Text in Art’. I also include one of Rauschenberg’s ‘Cardboard’ series from the early 70s. Of these he said “I like to work in a material of waste and softness.” He also said, ” I am bombarded with TV sets and magazines, by the refuse, by the excess of the world…If I could paint or make an honest work, it should incorporate all of these elements, which were and are a reality.”   Here we see text used as an intricate part of the medium.

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