The first US artist to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1963, Robert Rauschenberg blazed a new trail for art in the second half of the twentieth century. This exhibition at Tate Modern is the first posthumous retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg’s work in the UK, as well as the first comprehensive exhibition in almost twenty years.
Moving between painting, sculpture, photography, print-making, installation and performance, he refused to accept conventional boundaries in art and in life, his quest for innovation fired by his boundless curiosity, enthusiasm for collaboration and passion for travel.
Bringing together a tightly edited selection of key works from different periods, Robert Rauschenberg provides a long overdue opportunity to discover a remarkably consistent artistic trajectory which steadfastly refused to be straight-jacketed by rules and conventions.
Each chapter of Rauschenberg’s six-decade career is represented by major works including loans that rarely travel. Among these is a selection of his Combines, hybrids between painting and sculpture, as well as his graphic screenprints which signal Rauschenberg’s early commitment to political activism. These signature bodies of work are preceded by his early experiments at Black Mountain College, a hotbed for innovation in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and his first collaborations with fellow artists and friends John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, David Tudor and Cy Twombly. The artist’s work with Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T), an organisation which developed collaboration between artists and engineers in the 1960s, is explored, showing how he helped to blur the boundaries between the visual arts, dance and science.
In the mid-1960s Rauschenberg left New York for Florida and began to travel extensively across Europe, the Americas and Asia. His Cardboards from the early 1970s, a wry comment on the forces of globalization, and his sumptuous fabric works such as The Jammers, inspired by his visit to the Indian textile centre of Ahmedabad are included in the show. The epic project Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI), which was completed between 1984 and 1991 taking in China, Cuba and Tibet, is also on display.
Performance remained a key interest for Rauschenberg as did his interest in pushing the limits of image-making with new materials such as printing on translucent textiles, polished steel or oxydised copper, or with vegetable inks indicating his continued concern for the environment.
Robert Rauschenberg, co-organised with The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and in close dialogue with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, is the first posthumous retrospective and the first comprehensive survey of Rauschenberg’s protean work since the encyclopedic Guggenheim Museum exhibition in 1997.
Press release and Photographs courtesy of the Tate Modern