Artistic Trailblazer Robert Rauschenberg Dies at 82

May 14, 2008 09:00 AM
by Josh Katz
Robert Rauschenberg, an artist famous for fusing seemingly disparate objects into a revolutionary expression of ideas, died on Monday in Florida.

30-Second Summary

Rauschenberg, who changed his name from Milton to Robert for aesthetic reasons, created his own genre of art in the 1950s called “combines,” changing the way many people thought about artistic expression.

In 1959, he constructed “Monogram,” one of the first pieces to win him acclaim. The creation consisted of a “stuffed angora goat, a tire, a police barrier, the heel of a shoe, a tennis ball, and paint,” according to PBS. The unique artistic style of the piece characterized Rauschenberg’s career.

Although many of the objects he placed together seemingly lacked a clear connection, a closer look would bring it all into focus, wrote John Richardson in a 1997 Vanity Fair feature on the artist.

Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1925, growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household. He considered being a minister, but his love for dancing clashed with the church’s ban on the activity.

Rauschenberg was never much of an athlete or student, eventually learning that he was dyslexic. He was expelled from the University of Texas after freeing the frog he was supposed to dissect, and was resultantly drafted into the Navy during World War II. It was during his time as a sailor, drawing portraits of the other men, that he learned of his passion for art.

The National Gallery of Art
writes, “The artist's welcoming of representation back into the avant-garde restored a potent visual vocabulary. As art historian Leo Steinberg noted, ‘What he invented above all was … a pictorial surface that let the world in again.’”

Headline Link: ‘Pop Artist Robert Rauschenberg Dies in Fla. at 82’

Background: Rauschenberg’s life and career

Reference: Fine Art Web Guide


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