“In 1959, Robert Rauschenberg wrote, “Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)” When Rauschenberg launched his career in the early 1950s, the heroic gestural painting of Abstract Expressionism was in its heyday. He challenged this tradition with an egalitarian approach to materials, bringing the stuff of the everyday world into his art. Often working in collaboration with artists, dancers, musicians, and writers, he invented new interdisciplinary modes of artistic practice that helped set the course for art of the present day. The ethos that permeates Rauschenberg’s work—openness to the world, commitment to dialogue and collaboration, and global curiosity—also makes him a touchstone for our time.
Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, the first twenty-first-century retrospective of the artist, presents over 250 works across mediums from his six-decade career. Collaboration was always critical to Rauschenberg, and his inclusiveness did not stop at the point of making; it often involved the viewer. “My whole area of art has always been addressed to working with other people,” he reflected. “Ideas are not real estate.” To highlight the importance of exchange for Rauschenberg, this exhibition is structured as an “open monograph”—as other artists came into Rauschenberg’s creative life, their work comes into these galleries, mapping the play of ideas.
The acclaimed artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas collaborated with the curatorial and design teams on the exhibition’s design to foreground Rauschenberg’s deep engagement with dance and performance. For many years, Atlas worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, as stage manager, lighting designer, and in-house filmmaker; in that capacity, he worked alongside Rauschenberg on some of the company’s productions.” — Introductory Wall Text
Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Weil. Untitled (Double Rauschenberg). c. 1950. Exposed blueprint paper, 6 ft. 10 1/2 in. × 36 1/4 in. (209.6 × 92.1 cm). Cy Twombly Foundation. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Cy + Relics, Rome. 1952, printed 1980s. Gelatin silver print, 15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm). Courtesy Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Untitled (Scatole personali [Personal boxes]). c. 1952. Stained, lidded wood box containing dirt, pins, photograph of the artist, plastic lens, and mica, 1 1/2 × 2 1/8 × 3 in. (3.8 × 5.4 × 7.6 cm). The Sonnabend Collection Foundation and Antonio Homem. Photo: Light Blue Studio, courtesy Craig F. Starr Gallery. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg with Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns. Erased de Kooning Drawing. 1953. A de Kooning drawing, graphite, and other media on paper, erased by Rauschenberg and mounted in a gilded wood frame with label inscribed using a metal template in blue ink on paper by Jasper Johns, 25 1/4 × 22 3/4 × 1/2 in. (64.1 × 55.2 × 1.3 cm). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis. Photo: Ben Blackwell. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg with John Cage. Automobile Tire Print (detail). 1953. Tire-tread mark (front wheel) and tire-tread mark with house paint (rear wheel) made by Cage’s Model A Ford, driven by Cage over twenty sheets of typewriter paper fastened together with library paste, mounted on fabric, 16 1/2 in. × 22 ft. 1/2 in. (41.9 × 671.8 cm). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis. Photo: Don Ross. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Untitled (Gold Painting). ca. 1953. Gold leaf on fabric and glue on Masonite in wood-and-glass frame. 12 ¼ x 12 5/8 x 1 1/8 inches. Joint bequest of Eve Clendenin to The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Untitled (Elemental Sculpture). c. 1953. Hinged steel flange, stone, steel strap, and iron bolt (orientation variable), 13 5/8 × 18 1/4 × 9 1/8 in. (34.6 × 46.4 × 23.2 cm) (irreg.). San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis. Photo: Ben Blackwell. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Charlene. 1954. Oil, charcoal, printed reproductions, newspaper, wood, plastic mirror, men’s undershirt, umbrella, lace, ribbons and other fabrics, and metal on Homasote, mounted on wood, with electric light, overall: 7 ft. 5 in. × 9 ft. 4 in. × 3 1/2 in. (226.1 × 284.5 × 8.9 cm). Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Bed. 1955. Oil, pencil, toothpaste, and red fingernail polish on pillow, quilt, and bedsheet mounted on wood support. 6 ft. 3 1/4 in. × 31 1/2 in. × 8 in. (191.1 × 80 × 20.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Leo Castelli in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Photo: Thomas Griesel © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Monogram. 1955–59. Oil, paper, fabric, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe-heel, and tennis ball on two conjoined canvases with oil on taxidermied Angora goat with brass plaque and rubber tire on wood platform mounted on four casters, 42 × 53 1/4 × 64 1/2 in. (106.7 × 135.2 × 163.8 cm). Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Purchase with contribution from Moderna Museets Vänner/The Friends of Moderna Museet. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Gift for Apollo. 1959. Oil, fragments of a pair of men’s pants, necktie, wood, fabric, newspaper, printed paper, and printed reproductions on wood with metal bucket, metal chain, doorknob, L-brackets, metal washer, mail, cement, and rubber wheels with metal spokes, 43 3/4 × 291/2 × 41 in. (11.1 × 74.9 × 104.1 cm) (variable). The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Panza Collection
Robert Rauschenberg with Toby Fitch, Harold Hodges, Billy Klüver, and Robert K. Moore. Oracle. 1962–65. Five-part found-metal assemblage with five concealed remote-controlled radios: exhaust pipe on metal axle and pushcart wheels; automobile door on wheeled typewriter table, with crushed metal; ventilation duct, water, and concealed showerhead in washtub on wheels, with chain, wire basket, and metal lid on wheels; constructed staircase control unit housing automobile tire and batteries and other electronic components on wheels; and wooden window frame with ventilation duct on wood support with wheels, dimensions variable. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Pierre Schlumberger. © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/ Art Resource, NY and © 2016 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Gold Standard. 1964. Oil, paper, printed reproductions, clock, cardboard box, metal, fabric, wood, string, pair of men’s boots, and Coca-Cola bottles on gold folding Japanese screen, with electric light, rope, and ceramic dog on bicycle seat and wire-mesh base, 7 ft. 1/4 in. × 11 ft. 10 1/8 in. × 51 1/4 in. (214 × 361 × 130.2 cm). Glenstone Museum. Photograph: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art.com. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Peter Moore. Performance view of Robert Rauschenberg’s Pelican (1963), 1965. © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Robert Rauschenberg. Autobiography. 1968. Offset lithograph on three sheets of paper. 198 3/4 x 48 3/4 inches. From an edition of 2000, published by Broadside Art, Inc., New York © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Nabisco Shredded Wheat (Cardboard). 1971. Tape and cardboard boxes, 70 in. × 7 ft. 11 in. × 11 in. (177.8 × 241.3 × 27.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Polar Glut. 1987. Riveted metal street signs, 6 ft. 4 1/2 in. × 36 in. × 4 in. (194.3 × 91.4 × 10.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Overdrive. 1963. Oil and silkscreen ink on canvas. 84 x 60 inches. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift of Glenn and Eva Dubin © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Retroactive I. 1964. Oil and silk-screen-ink print on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. Gift of Susan Morse Hilles. Photo: Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Signs. 1970. Screen-print, comp.: 35 3⁄16 × 26 3⁄4 in. (89.4 × 67.9 cm), sheet: 43 × 34 in. (109.2 × 86.4 cm). Publisher: Castelli Graphics, New York. Edition: 250. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Leo and Jean-Christophe Castelli in memory of Toiny Castelli. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Robert Rauschenberg. Poster for ROCI Cuba (Museo Nacional site), 1988. All offset lithograph, ranging from 34 1/2 in. (87.6 cm) to 38 3/8 in. (97.5 cm) high and from 23 3/4 (60.3 cm) to 24 1/4 in. (61.6 cm) wide), ROCI Cuba: silk-screen and offset lithograph on foil paper. Printer: Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York. © 2017 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Trisha Brown. Glacial Decoy. 1979. With costumes, set, and lighting (with Beverly Emmons), by Rauschenberg. This performance at the Marymount Manhattan College Theater, New York, June 20–24, 1979. Left to right: Brown, Nina Lundborg, and Lisa Kraus. Photograph: Babette Mangolte © 1979 Babette Mangolte (All Rights of Reproduction Reserved)
Rehearsal for Rauschenberg’s Spring Training (1965) in his Broadway studio, New York, 1965. Pictured from left: Alex Hay, Steve Paxton and Robert Rauschenberg. Photo Ugo Mulas. © 2017 Ugo Mulas Heirs. All rights reserved. Courtesy Archivio Ugo Mulas, Milan—Galleria Lia Rumma, Milan/Naples
Rauschenberg in his Pearl Street studio, New York, March 1958. Works, left to right: Charlene (1954), Untitled (c. 1954), and a partial rear view of the second state of Monogram (1955–59, second state 1956–58). Photographer: Dan Budnik. Courtesy Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Archives, New York. © Dan Budnik, all rights reserved
The exhibition is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern, London. Organized by Leah Dickerman, The Marlene Hess Curator of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, and Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions at Tate Modern, with Emily Liebert and Jenny Harris, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.
Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.