Robert Rauschenberg R.I.P.

May 14, 2008
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Few artists in history have changed the rules the way Robert Rauschenberg, who died Monday at age 82, did.

By incorporating found objects (a pillow, a stuffed goat…) into his paintings, Rauschenberg challenged contemporary art and artists to connect their work to real life. And he did it while avoiding irony or pop culture iconography.

Maxwell Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art knew the artist.

“I got to know Rauschenberg when the Whitney acquired one of his most ambitious works, titled “Synapsis Shuffle”,  in 2000,” Anderson told IBJ. “ It was vintage Rauschenberg, in its mixture of contemporary imagery and in its subversion of convention by making the arrangement of 52 paintings a kind of poker game.”

Anderson adds: “We will all miss his whimsy, ingenuity, and provocative Southern spirit.  Younger artists could take a leaf from his book, take chances, and care more about what inspires them than how they are judged in the marketplace.”

Your thoughts?
  • I am glad to have met Rauschenberg through your blog, Lou. (And Maxwell Anderson, for that matter.) The Synapsis Shuffle article is fascinating, and the work itself sounds even more so.

    Inviting Martha Stewart, Mike Wallace, and a choreographer, and other people to deal his deck of art cards? How intriguing!

    I love that he was not threatened by people taking his art and making something new out of it.

    Sometimes I cringe when people take old books and cut them up or whatever to make them into new works of art, but mostly I think it comes from a desire to express love, not a desire to destroy. In other words, it is not really threatening what I value.

    I like to make greeting cards with rubber stamps, too. Sometimes I think I am copping out by using someone else's art this way, but mostly I am just grateful that he or she was willing to share.

    I hope I get to see a Rauschenberg piece in person some day.

    Hope Baugh

    PS - I made time to visit the Whitney Museum during a business trip to Washington DC for the first time last summer because I had just finished reading THE LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY, by Susan Vreeland (2007) and I wanted to see the painting by Renoir on which it was based. What a thrilling experience!

  • Oh, no, wait. It wasn't the Whitney. It was the Phillips Collection where I saw Luncheon of the Boating Party. Drat.

    Well, it was still thrilling to see that Renoir and I am still glad to know about Rauschenberg.

    If he is survived by a wife or other family, I hope they are comforted by knowing how much his work meant to the arts community.

    Hope Baugh
  • Christopher West, Curator of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, just sent me a note, adding:

    As far as I'm concerned, he was the first artist to spark my interest in contemporary art. I was probably 12 years old on a trip with my parents to the Smithsonian in DC when we stumbled across a Rauschenberg retrospective. His materials, layers and methods opened up an entirely new world to me. For the first time I realized art didn't have to be a pretty picture on the wall and I loved it. I scraped together all of my nickels and bought a poster. It's been all downhill from there.


  • Will Vacationing at the Simon Beach Home in Captiva.
    We were walking the beach,
    Looking for the the home & studio of Robert Rauschenberg.
    Martha & I were wondering if this was indeed his home
    We heard that His dogs would be outside on his deck if he was there.
    There was the dogs and All of a sudden
    Rauschenberg came out holding a drink.
    Martha and I could not believe it.
    We had an enjoyable talk, and a great time enjoying the sunset with him.
    As a person & an Artist he will be missed.
  • Thanks for the words, James.

    For those who don't recognize the name, check out

    And here's a look at his piece that will grace the new airport terminal:

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