Gay Artist Robert Rauschenberg Dead at 82
May 14 2008 12:00 AM ET
Rauschenberg, whose use of odd and everyday articles earned
him a reputation as a pioneer in pop art but whose
talents spanned the worlds of painting, sculpture, and
dance, has died, his gallery representative said
Tuesday. He was 82.
Monday, said Jennifer Joy, his representative at
PaceWildenstein gallery in New York City.
first gained fame in the 1950s, didn't mine popular
culture wholesale as Andy Warhol did with Campbell's soup
cans and Roy Lichtenstein did with comic books.
Instead, his ''combines,'' incongruous combinations of
three-dimensional objects and paint, shared pop's
blurring of art and objects from modern life.
He also responded
to his pop colleagues and began incorporating
up-to-the-minute photographed images in his works in the
1960s, including, memorably, pictures of John F.
Rauschenberg's most famous works was Bed, created
after he woke up in the mood to paint but had no money
for a canvas. His solution was to take the quilt off
his bed and use paint, toothpaste, and fingernail polish.
Not to be limited
by paint, Rauschenberg was a sculptor and choreographer
and even won a 1984 Grammy Award for best album package for
the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues.
he said in 1997 in one of the few interviews he granted
in later years. ''It's very rewarding. I'm still discovering
things every day.''
more than 50 years in art produced a varied and prolific
collection that filled both Manhattan locations of the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum during a 1998
Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes, in his
book American Visions, called Rauschenberg ''a
protean genius who showed America that all of life could be
open to art.... Rauschenberg didn't give a fig for
consistency, or curating his reputation; his taste was
always facile, omnivorous, and hit-or-miss, yet he had
a bigness of soul and a richness of temperament that
recalled Walt Whitman.''
split his time between New York and Captiva Island in
Florida, where he kept a house stocked with his own art and
those of his friends.
''I like things
that are almost souvenirs of a creation, as opposed to
being an artwork,'' he said in a 1997 Harper's
Bazaar interview, ''because the process is more
interesting than completing the stuff.''
painting at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1947. He later
took his studies to Black Mountain College in North
Carolina, where he studied under master Josef Albers,
and alongside contemporary artists such as
choreographer Merce Cunningham and musician John Cage. He
also studied at the Art Students League in New York
first paintings in the early 1950s comprised a series of
all-white and all-black surfaces underlaid with wrinkled
newspaper. In later works he began making art from
what others would consider junk -- old soda bottles,
traffic barricades, and stuffed birds and calling them
Rauschenberg's first and most famous combines was titled
Monogram, a 1959 work consisting of a stuffed
angora goat, a tire, a police barrier, the heel of a shoe, a
tennis ball, and paint.
By the mid 1950s,
he was also designing sets and costumes for dance
companies and window displays for Tiffany and Bonwit Teller.
He met Jasper
Johns in 1954. He and the younger artist, both destined to
become world-famous, became lovers and influenced each
other's work. According to the book Lives of the
Great 20th Century Artists, Rauschenberg told
biographer Calvin Tomkins that ''Jasper and I
literally traded ideas. He would say, 'I've got a terrific
idea for you,' and then I'd have to find one for him.''
Rauschenberg in 1925 in Port Arthur, Texas, and raised a
Christian fundamentalist, Rauschenberg wanted to be a
minister but gave it up because his church banned
considered slow,'' he once said. ''While my classmates were
reading their textbooks, I drew in the margins.''
He was drafted
into the U.S. Navy during World War II and knew little
about art until a chance visit to an art museum where he saw
his first painting at age 18. He drew portraits of his
fellow sailors for them to send home.
When his time in
the service was up, Rauschenberg used the GI bill to pay
his tuition at art school. He changed his name to Robert
because it sounded more artistic.
In recent years
he founded the organization Change Inc., which helps
struggling artists pay medical bills.
''I don't ever
want to go,'' he told Harper's when asked about
dying. ''I don't have a sense of great reality about the
next world; my feet are too ugly to wear those golden
slippers. But I'm working on my fear of it. And my
fear is that something interesting will happen, and
I'll miss it.'' (AP)
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