Robert Rauschenberg: Combines is the red-hot core of the American 1950 – a period of optimism and breakthrough. Robert Rauschenberg was breathtakingly accurate in capturing the atmosphere and tendencies of the time. In art history there is a before and an after his Combines. It is perhaps the most important solo exhibition of this artist’s works ever to be shown. The works are best described as free-standing or wall-mounted objects combining painting and sculpture, produced between 1954 and 1964, a prolific period in Rauschenberg’s long and outstanding oeuvre.
Rauschenberg was boundless in his choice of materials, combining newspaper cuttings and photographs, like the cubists, dadaists and surrealists, with objects found on his own rubbish dump – of which Coca-Cola bottles, pinups, rubber tyres and stuffed animals are but a few examples.
It is no exaggeration to say that Rauschenberg redefined American art when he invented the Combine. With these works he exploded the traditional boundary between painting and sculpture, and instead brought the street into the studio. Rauschenberg resumed the dialogue with the outer world that the preceding artist generation, the abstract expressionists, had consistently excluded from their art. The 162 combines he created during a ten-year period also demonstrate his influence on later isms and genres, such as pop art, neo-dada, assemblage, fluxus, Viennese actionism, arte povera and performance art.
Robert Rauschenberg (originally Milton) was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1925. After studying pharmacology at the University of Texas he was drafted into the Navy and spent many years caring for mental patients at various Navy hospitals in California. He started painting portraits of his fellow navy recruits that they could send back home to their families. In the late 1940s, he studied at Kansas City Art Institute and at Académie Julian in Paris, where he met the artist Susan Weil, whom he married shortly after. Rauschenberg went on to study at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where the famous artist and Bauhaus teacher Joseph Albers was on the staff. It was at Black Mountain that Rauschenberg forged his seminal friendship with the avant-garde choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham and the legendary composers John Cage and David Tudor. It was there, also, that he participated in Cage’s Theater Piece #1 which is now considered to be the world’s first happening. Robert Rauschenberg currently lives in Captiva in Florida.
Paul Schimmel, chefscurator, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Anna Tellgren, curator för utställningen på Moderna Museet
Scania supports the exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Combines
Robert Rauschenberg: Combines is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
The exhibition is made possible by the genereous support of the Jane and Marc Nathanson Foundation. Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Herta and Paul Amir; Mr. and Mrs. Willem Mesdag; The Brotman Foundation of California; Audrey M. Irmas; Carla and Fred Sands; The Jamie and Steve Tisch Foundation; Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg; Brenda Potter and Michael Sandler; Janet and Tom Unterman; Caviar Butler; the Pasadena Art Alliance; Betye Monell Burton; East West Bank; Jerry and Joy Monkarsh; W.L.S. Spencer Foundation; and anonymous donors.
The international tour is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.