Robert Rauschenberg, dead at 82.
May 13, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Robert Rauschenberg (previously), painter, sculptor, perfomance artist, printmaker, photographer, theater designer, technologist, dead at 82.

Here's the American Masters profile of Rauschenberg, an old interview about his erasing of a De Kooning, the Man At Work piece and a long Charlie Rose interview with him (starts at around 30 minutes in, after Chuck Close).
posted by krautland (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sad news, indeed.

posted by Thorzdad at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by nosila at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2008

Oh, my. Rauschenberg is one of my favorites, and a profound inspiration. So much sustained exploration and joy. I've had more "Gee-whiz!" art moments looking at works of his than of any other single artist.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:18 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by roll truck roll at 9:19 AM on May 13, 2008


posted by fire&wings at 9:22 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by IndpMed at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by daniel9223 at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by notclosed at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2008

words this artistic
comment is jumble of
in tribute

*smears paint over comment*
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not an art lover. Visual art goes over my head; I don't appreciate it like many people. But I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery about six months ago with a date and saw a few Rauschenberg pieces. I can't explain why I liked them, but they worked. They worked well enough that I remembered his name.

Sad loss.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2008

Wow. Holy shit. Another generation of artists passes. I love Rauschenberg; when I first discovered his work in college it floored me and knocked me flat. I'll never forget the first time I saw Painters Painting, also in college, some 15 years after it was made, and came stumbling out of the theatre just moved and blown away and changed forever, mostly by a sardonic man sitting on a stepladder drinking bourbon and talking about art in a way I'd never heard before, like it was a living thing and you could fuck around with it all you wanted and in that breaking process make something new and interesting and no matter what it was, it could also be art.

Painters Painting is on Youtube. If you've never seen it you might want to check it out.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2008 [6 favorites]

posted by ardgedee at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2008


An edition of his Earth Day 1970 hangs over the water fountain in my office. I'll go put a flower there.

posted by rtha at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:46 AM on May 13, 2008


He changed the way I looked at the world.
posted by pasici at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2008

Imagine this is a goat with a tire around it

posted by sleepy pete at 10:02 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by decagon at 10:09 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by gum at 10:11 AM on May 13, 2008

[erased period]
posted by interrobang at 10:22 AM on May 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

posted by podwarrior at 10:25 AM on May 13, 2008


One of my favorites.
posted by mattbucher at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2008

True story. Way back when, I transferred reluctantly from one college's art program to another at a smaller school when I ran out of scholarship. I resented the new program unmercifully, not least because it was full of emo-looking posers who couldn't paint to save their lives. An even bigger issue was that I was already an upperclassman with two years of painting and drawing down, but this new school felt so highly of their program that - before they would count my credit as anything but elective - they wanted me to re-sit drawing 1 in know, just to get a "feel for it."

Anyway, the ditzy TA teaching the class had us go round-robin in an ice breaker on the first day. Each person was to stand up, say their name, where they were from, and their favorite artist.

I got to be last in the circle.

Amid the reek of patchouli, I grimaced as each of the sullen kids in the class stood up and tried to outdo each other in the game of who could name the most obscure favorite artist. The circle started at Kollwitz, who I like... went immediately to Chagall... and then veered off the map. By the time it got to me, the purple haired kid next to me was waxing on about some unknown artist he saw in a street gallery when his family took a trip to Sweden when he was 13.

My favorite was Rauschenberg.

I was met with a mix of looks from blank stares to smirks to looks of pity that I would pick somebody so "mainstream." The TA said something to the effect of, "oh, well yes.... he's certainly well known, but I was looking for somebody more vital to your personal experience."

I archly replied I was unaware that an artist's success precluded them from being "vital," and the class went on.

Three weeks later, after the TA told me that she thought I might enjoy and do well in a painting course (really??? you think? after four semesters of it??), I left the program and turned my minor into my major, determined that I didn't need a piece of paper from this particular university to do art and/or design. I built a spec portfolio and got a design job anyway, despite them. I left them drawing from books (not life??) and puffing their chests over their latest high-school poem scrawled on a bed sheet. High art, after all.

My favorite artist is still Rauschenberg.

Ever since I was first exposed to him in the 1980's, at a retrospective in D.C.'s National Gallery, I have been enamored with his work and the fact that such a creative visionary... something of a wild beast in the art world... can come from my home state of Texas.

Today is a sad day, and I reckon he will always remain my favorite artist.

posted by kaseijin at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


When the San Francisco LGBT Community Center opened several years ago, they held a fascinating and intimate exhibit of some lesser known and smaller scale works of his.

These works presented a personal symbolic language (e.g., I believe that a certain color of red was always a reference to a certain lover) in contrast to the alleged randomness of his aesthetic. The exhibit really changed the way I feel about his paintings -- I'd always liked them, but now when I see them there's an additional aura of mystery, as if I'm peering directly into someone's personal cosmos.

There's a little blurb on the exhibit here.
posted by treepour at 10:30 AM on May 13, 2008

well that sucks.
When I was...maybe 10 or 11 my Mom took me to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and there was a Rauschenberg (it was this one)

I was confused at first, thinking..."this is art?" but the more I looked at it, the more I liked and started to understand it.

So thanks Robert.
posted by ShawnString at 10:45 AM on May 13, 2008

I have always loved how his art can look unpretentious and accessible.
posted by bru at 11:02 AM on May 13, 2008

This was one of those rare exhibitions I felt like I could have come back to a dozen times, and still seen something new each visit.

Great, great artist. He'll be sorely missed.

posted by scody at 11:09 AM on May 13, 2008

I got to see a Rauschenberg retrospective at the Menil in Houston a few years back (like 2002-2003), and was blown away.

Truly sad.

posted by Benway at 11:09 AM on May 13, 2008

It figures that on the day I graduate from art school, Robert Rauschenberg dies.

posted by billypilgrim at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I saw a huge Rauschenberg exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art in the Seventies, and still remember the feeling I had leaving that huge hall. The world had changed.
posted by kozad at 11:26 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by gohlkus at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2008

Another Rauschenberg story, maybe apocryphal.
A collector who had bought one of his early assemblage pieces called him to complain that some bit of it had fallen off, and he wanted compensation for its being poorly made. Rauschenberg responded with "What kind of car do you drive?"
"A Cadillac," the collector said.
"And how much did you pay for that?" Rauschenberg then asked.
"Why about $10 grand the man said.
"And how long do you expect that to last?"
Clearly the man was about to get the point, since in those days a Rauschenberg cost considerably less than a Cadillac.
posted by donfactor at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

My wife will be devastated. He was a huge inspiration for her. We were set to go visit his studio in south Florida in June.

posted by tkchrist at 11:57 AM on May 13, 2008

posted by bz at 12:29 PM on May 13, 2008

I went to school in Port Arthur and had my first real art class there. Not that I much cared for art then (mostly I had technical ability but nothing to inform it), but the instructor was adamant that we would know composition and have a working vocabulary of design. I was introduced to Mr. Rauschenberg's works as one of the city’s own, and was completely blown away. There was suddenly more going on than the formal paintings that marked my art history, or the curiosities of modern art that were beyond my comprehension. This was really powerful stuff that really brought home how the two really spoke the same language. And I had reason to work my ass off in that class.

I don’t really work in any sense in the idiom of modern art, but I had tried to recreate a Rauschenberg for my own amusement and so I could have something similar on my own wall. My own homage as it were.

Many years of school and starvation later, mostly still working very formally, Rauschenberg made me approach art more fully as a participant than a spectator.

posted by quintessencesluglord at 12:49 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on May 13, 2008

Yes, Rauschenberg is a great inspiration. After seeing his work, I had to forcefully restrain myself from aping his style, potent with drips and rough transfers etc. Brilliant man, unparalleled stylist.

A small anecdote:

I worked at USF's graphicstudio (an experimental, vanguard printing studio) for a semester, mainly doing menial tasks and learning the ropes of the fine art world. There were many fantastic prints hanging on the office walls, one of which was a Rauschenberg. This particular print had an unusual feature -- a no.2 IBM pencil, secured perpendicularly to the surface with by a string attached to either end of the frame. It was rather like a bow and arrow held horizontally, with the eraser notched and the sharpened point resting on the print.

At any rate, graphicstudio was a great place for hubbubery and elbow rubbubing, having as they did fantastic parties with the wine and cheese flowing, hoighty toit art folk, tipsy and accomplished artists, the whole to-do. During one of these parties, the pencil on this print disappeared. No one was ever sure if someone knicked it, it fell off, if someone popped it off the wall to jot down a number, whatnot.

The next day when the "damage" was discovered, it was suggested that we just put another pencil in there and heyo, that's that. As you might suspect, this was unacceptable. Then began the hunt for the very particular pencil, a no.2 IBM issue, sharpened only once and otherwise of impeccable appearance. It took them months to hunt down the replacement part, and at startling expense and effort.

I wish Rauschenberg had gnawed on it a little, so that the pencil would need to go into his mouth for futher authentication.

Anyway. That got a little rambling, didn't it.
But goddamn, a great loss. I love this man's work.
posted by undule at 1:01 PM on May 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by benimoto at 1:19 PM on May 13, 2008


The Erased de Kooning always makes me smile. It used to be on display at SFMOMA. Not sure if it is anymore as I do not live there to check on it. If I did still live there, I would leave work right now to go check on it.

Can someone go do that for me? I would really appreciate it.

And as sad as his passing is, WOW! What great works he has left for us to remember him by.
posted by paddysat at 1:25 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by djseafood at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2008

Riding Bikes

oh yes,

posted by fixedgear at 1:46 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by Dizzy at 1:57 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by troubles at 2:00 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by trip and a half at 3:19 PM on May 13, 2008

paddysat, it is still here.

posted by whir at 3:52 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by klausness at 4:14 PM on May 13, 2008

Sad! He was one of the first artists I was really fascinated by.
posted by phunniemee at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2008

Thanks, whir!
posted by paddysat at 5:52 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by the_bone at 6:18 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by shoepal at 7:49 PM on May 13, 2008

As Josef Albers supposedly said, late in life, when asked about teaching Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College:

What? You expect me to remember ALL of my students?

Rest in Peace, Bob.

BTW, Robert was fond of saying that the only two people to get out of Port Arthur alive were himself and Janice Joplin... not bad.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:59 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by Dukebloo at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by white light at 9:18 PM on May 13, 2008

posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:20 AM on May 14, 2008

They showed us an interview with him in school where he talked about living with Jasper Johns, and begging him to let him paint one single brush stroke on one of those iconic american flag paintings. When Johns finally let him, he almost instinctively put a long streak of red paint over one of the white stripes. Johns was furious with him, but Rauschenberg seemed so sweet, amused and nostalgic talking about it in the interview that it was really an oddly tender story.

A personal hero of mine.

posted by emperor.seamus at 10:25 AM on May 14, 2008

This obit by Jen Graves at The Stranger is a wonderful tribute.
posted by rschroed at 3:26 PM on May 14, 2008

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