May 13, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg, 1925 – 2008

SFMOMA lost a great friend yesterday with the death of one of the most influential of postwar American artists, Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg’s work is one of the strengths of our collection, and many of our staff have fond memories of working with him. There is a wonderful bit of interview with Rauschenberg here; he talks about knocking on de Kooning’s door with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand, hoping to convince the elder artist to give him a drawing—to erase.

Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953; traces of ink and crayon; Collection SFMOMA, purchased through a gift of Phyllis Wattis; © Robert Rauschenberg / Licensed by VAGA, New York

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Comments (4)

  • A few years back I went to a small show at the LGBT center of Rauschenberg’s later work as curated by an ex-lover. To have such an intimate experience of the pieces was amazing, particularly contextualized within this “queer” community space. My favorite artifact: a personal note written in Sharpie on a piece of plastic bubble wrap, simply reading “Good morning darling, today I am on a water diet.”

  • It was a big deal to me as a very young artist, a revelation, when the Rauschenberg retrospective came to SFMOMA in 1977 at it’s old location in the War Memorial Veteran’s Building. So much energy, genuine creativity and openness. I still have that catalog. I remember seeing “Erased de Kooning” then (my hero, de Kooning) and seeing how what might be called a destructive act could also be a generative act. He made something new from something else, which was evident throughout the exhibition- reuse of fabrics, printed images, wood, salvaged material- what others might call nothing. There were several huge pieces made of opened and flattened cardboard boxes that were delicate and sensitive, that had a connection to field painting or Twombly, and forced us to consider which materials are allowed in art, and where the art is in those materials. We’re lucky to have such a good representative group of RR’s work in SF.

  • Sad indeed. Seems an appropriate time, maybe, to recommend in this space the book Off The Wall, the “portrait”/bio of Rauchenberg by Calvin Tompkins (who also wrote what is surely the best Duchamp bio). It does an exceedingly great job of capturing the spirit of those early years (50s & 60s), very worth digging up.

  • I always found Erased de Kooning Drawing to behilarious.

    rip Rauschenberg.

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