After suffering a stroke in 2002 that left his right arm partially paralyzed, Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was no longer able to take photographs, nor was he able to transfer and arrange them into new compositions, as he had been doing since the early 1950s. As Triathlon (Scenario) (2005) shows, these obstacles did not prevent him from making art. Relying on the sorts of collaborative processes that had fueled his work for decades, Rauschenberg invited his friends to take photographs with digital cameras that he provided. He then selected from the images they produced and instructed one of his studio assistants at the time, Kevin Pottorf , in the transfer and arrangements of these images onto two panels
A cacophonous summary of the grand aspirations and unrest of the late 196os, Robert Rauschenberg’s Signs (1970) was originally commissioned as a cover for Time Magazine. When the collage was rejected by the publication, Rauschenberg turned it into a print “conceived to remind us of the love, terror, and violence of the last 10 years. Danger lies in forgetting.” United States soldiers in Vietnam, peace protestors and the anonymous victim of an urban riot are combined with the images of five public figures, three of them recently murdered: President John F. Kennedy, presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. They are joined by Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, and the singer Janis Joplin, who died from a drug overdose a few months after Signs was made.
Photographed as part of the exhibit Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, at the Museum of Modern Art Through September 17th, 2017.
Jasper Johns created Green Target in 1955. The painting was included in a group show at the Jewish Museum. There the painting caught the attention of Leo Castelli, an art collector and self-described playboy who decided, at the age of 51, to open a gallery in New York.
Castelli had begun by selling paintings from his own collection; he also approached several young artists whose work interested him. In March 1957, after the Jewish Museum show, Castelli went to Pearl Street to invite Robert Rauschenberg to show at his gallery. In passing, Castelli mentioned that he had seen a painting by someone with the peculiar name of Jasper Johns, and that he would like to meet the artist. “Well, that’s very easy,” Rauschenberg said, “he’s downstairs.”
“I walked into the studio,” Castelli recalled, “and there was this attractive, very shy young man, and all these paintings. It was astonishing, a complete body of work. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
For Johns, who did not want to be associated with any particular group of painters, Castelli’s gallery was ideal, since it was new and had no specific identity. Castelli showed Johns’ Flag (1955) in a group show at his gallery later in 1957, and in 1958 he gave Johns his first one-man show. Here Johns displayed the result of more than three years of sustained effort: his flags, his targets, his numbers and alphabets. Johns became “an overnight sensation,” and was immediately plunged into a critical controversy that continued for several years.
To understand the controversy, one must recall the attitude of the New York art world in the middle 1950s. Abstract Expressionism – that movement which took as its fundamental tenet the necessity of communicating subjective content through an abstract art – reigned supreme in the city. The importance of Abstract Expressionism was confirmed by the fact that, for the first time in history, an indigenous American art movement had gained international significance.
The New York art world cherished Abstract Expressionism; it was almost impossible to conceive of anything else, to imagine any other premise for painting. As Rauschenberg said of that time, a young painter had “to start every day moving out from Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, which is sort of a long way to have to start from.” The burden was very heavy.
At the same time, the second generation of Abstract Expressionist painters were often perceived to have “slavishly imitated” their predecessors. The early shock and excitement of the movement were gone. “As the art market was glutted with the works of de Kooning’s admirers, the real achievements of de Kooning and his generation were becoming obscured.” There was a sense of waiting for something fresh and new, and newly provocative.
Johns provided the provocation. His assured and finely worked paintings of flags and targets offered an alternative to Abstract Expressionism, and reintroduced representation – the recognizable image – into painting.
Photo By Gail (Click on Image to Enlarge for Detail)
Canyon is one of Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines (also called Combine Paintings), which were hybrid works incorporating painting, collage, and found objects that he began making in 1954. Rauschenberg often kept an eye out for curious items in the street while walking around downtown New York, later repurposing “whatever the day would lay out” for his artistic ends.
The centerpiece of Canyon is a stuffed bald eagle that was found in a pile of discarded belongings in the hallway of the Carnegie Hall studio building and given to Rauschenberg by fellow artist Sari Dienes. It juts out from a canvas that is covered with pieces of a collared shirt, floral fabric, a photograph of Rauschenberg’s young son, a flattened metal drum, and a wrung–out tube of oil paint, among many other items.
Canyon is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and can be seen in the Painting and Sculpture II, Gallery 18, 4th Floor.
Not necessarily comprised of surrealist works, Sur-real is a bit of a mixed exhibit bag now showing at Woodward Gallery on the Lower East Side. Participating artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Buildmore, Deborah Claxton, Sybil Gibson, Richard Hambleton, Kosbe, David Larson, Mark Mastroianni, Margaret Morrison, NoseGo, Kenji Nakayama, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, stikman, Jeremy Szopinski, Francesco Tumbiolo, Jo Ellen Van Ouwerkerk, Cristina Vergano, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Andy Warhol, so there’s something for just about every taste in modern and contemporary art.
We attended the opening reception on a frigid and snowy Saturday evening, when the gallery welcomed guests with cups of hot chocolate and tiny slices of baguette, which we enjoyed dipping in the steaming hot cocoa! Comforting!
Dog By Andy Warhol
Here’ a painting by Andy Warhol that I had actually never seen before. And I didn’t think that was possible.
The artist known only as Stikman is best known for his yellow painted Stick Figures that you see mostly on sidewalks and the blacktop. Here you see the iconic Stikman figure constructed of reflective material and perched inside a bird cage. I love the zebra-like shadows that the cage’s bars cast off of the Stikman’s mirrored surface.
Candy Apples by Margaret Morrison
Artist Margaret Morrison has a few nice pieces in the show.
Time Out by Margaret Morrison
Self Portrait By Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
While I was looking at the above drawing by the late, great author Kurt Vonnegut Jr, the person standing next to me actually said, “Wasn’t he also a writer?” I wish I was kidding.
Search for Clues By Dennis Oppenheim
Not bad for our first Art Crawl of the New Year!
Sur-Real will be on Exhibit Through February 22, 2014, at Woodward Gallery, Located at 133 Eldridge Street, New York, NY 10002. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sunday: 12:00 Noon – 5:00 PM and by Appointment.