Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg

"You begin with the possibilities of the material."
Robert Rauschenberg, Titan of American Art, Is Dead at 82

When I was "coming of age" in the arts, I saw only two kinds of contemporary artists; those who found a way through Rauschenberg, & those trying to avoid or ignore him (This was 15 years after he became famous). I've always felt somewhat estranged from the latter. Rauschenberg was the broad & generous way. He was already in the "history" I encountered as a student of art. Was it right to take such an either/or attitude? Yes, in the sense that Rauschenberg opened up a better perception of beauty. When I found that beauty - it took some effort - I could not reject how it had been shown to me. Some things stayed ugly. Certainly, it was easier for me, driving into "art" from the land of rock & roll, which had different "standards," paying little attention to the borders I was supposedly crossing. Others had a great investment in maintaining & protecting those borders. Rauschenberg was no threat to me. He was only a puzzlement. Rauschenberg is partly responsible for my obsession with boardwalks & parking lot carnivals, & for why I was so comfortable doing free form radio. He affirmed a way of experiencing the world that I believe is natural for human beings, but which various cultural & religious agents & institutions are always telling us is too generous, or not discriminating enough. I don't want to burden Rauschenberg with too much responsibility; artists create out of what is already present in a culture, & as a culture is present in themselves.

I look at this art piece by Rauschenberg. Then I look at the collage of cards & pictures & magnets on the refrigerator door. A metal shelf unit with carousels, ceramic lighthouses, red toy piano, old radio, a dream catcher hanging off one side, topped with dusty decorative camel from India.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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