Thursday, May 15, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg, Artistic Experimenter

"Being right all the time can stop the momentum of a very interesting idea."

“Everyone was trying to give up European aesthetics... That was the struggle, and it was reflected in the fear of collectors and critics. John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.”

Mr. Rauschenberg, who knew that not everybody found it easy to grasp the open-endedness of his work, once described to the writer Calvin Tomkins an encounter with a woman who had reacted skeptically to “Monogram” (1955-59) and “Bed” in his 1963 retrospective at the Jewish Museum, one of the events that secured Mr. Rauschenberg’s reputation: “To her, all my decisions seemed absolutely arbitrary — as though I could just as well have selected anything at all — and therefore there was no meaning, and that made it ugly.

“So I told her that if I were to describe the way she was dressed, it might sound very much like what she’d been saying. For instance, she had feathers on her head. And she had this enamel brooch with a picture of ‘The Blue Boy’ on it pinned to her breast. And around her neck she had on what she would call mink but what could also be described as the skin of a dead animal. Well, at first she was a little offended by this, I think, but then later she came back and said she was beginning to understand.”

Robert Rauschenberg, the influential artistic experimenter, died on Monday at 82 years old. Above some excerpts from The New York Times obituary and here's the Washington Post and The Guardian. You can feel the creative energy, the possibilities he saw in the materials around him still bouncing off those canvases. The prince of the unexpected.

1 comment:

heather (errantdreams) said...

Interesting, that bit of conversation you relate, and how it started to open the woman's eyes. That was a very good analogy the artist used.