Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern, through 2 April, 2017
Tate Modern is hosting an exhaustive Robert Rauschenberg retrospective, the largest since the American artist's death in 2008. Even though Rauschenberg is often called the first postmodernist and the father of pop art, most art critics admit that he does not fit into one specific box. Throughout his career, which lasted more than six decades, he constantly defied boundaries, whether in painting, photography, sculpture, performance, graphic art or creative collaborations. His long-time collaboration partners included John Cage (1912–1992) and the ballet dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) as well as various scientists and engineers with whom he later founded the Experiments in Art and Technology organization.
But Rauschenberg's best-known series of artwork is definitely Combines (1953–1964), in which he combined a variety of objects (newspaper and magazine cuttings, scraps of clothing, leftover construction materials, all sorts of litter and found objects from the streets of New York City) in the compositional strategies of abstract expressionism, thereby erasing the borders between painting, sculpture and collage. One of the most iconic pieces from this series is Bed – a “collage” consisting of a worn pillow, sheet and blanket splashed with paint in a Jackson-Pollack-like manner and attached to the wall like a traditional painting. According to legend, the sheet, blanket and pillow were actually from Rauschenberg's own bed, repurposed because he could not afford to buy canvases for painting. “Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. I try to act in the gap between the two.” In light of this favourite statement of Rauschenberg, Bed is often considered to be a self-portrait.
Image: Rauschenberg in his Pearl Street studio with Satellite (1955) and the first state of Monogram (1955–59; first state 1955–56), New York, ca. 1955