Legendary Abstract Expressionist Robert Rauschenberg has died at age 82.
A painter, photographer, printmaker, choreographer, onstage performer, set designer and, in later years, even a composer, Mr. Rauschenberg defied the traditional idea that an artist stick to one medium or style. He pushed, prodded and sometimes reconceived all the mediums in which he worked.
Building on the legacies of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and others, he helped obscure the lines between painting and sculpture, painting and photography, photography and printmaking, sculpture and photography, sculpture and dance, sculpture and technology, technology and performance art — not to mention between art and life.
We were lucky enough to see the Guggenheim retrospective of his work ten years ago, and to our eye, no artist so encompassed multi media with such authority, building sheer nonsense to pure beauty. In particular, we often think of his installation “Soundings”:
Soundings is a 36 foot long sculpture made up of three layers of Plexiglas. The front layer would be partially mirrorized and behind are two layers of Plexiglas with images of a wooden chair on them. Different lights behind the sheets of Plexiglas would vary in intensity based upon the amount of sound in the room and backlight the images so they would be visible through the mirror.
Viewers would stomp and shout as fleeting images of the chairs flashed and danced. It sounds like complete twaddle, we know, but as you became part of the art with your own motions and sounds, something even more amazing emerged. He was a fantasist, a visionary, and whatever this post modern world is, he’s a big part of the good in it.