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Robert Rauschenberg Artist Biography

Robert Rauschenberg was both painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and performance artist. He worked in an enormous range of styles incorporating some startlingly innovative techniques. While too much of an individualist ever to be fully a part of any movement, he acted as an important bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art and can be credited as one of the major influences in the return to favour of representational art in the USA.

Milton Rauschenberg was born in 1925, in Port Arthur, Texas, part German and part Cherokee Indian. He became interested in art after a chance visit to a gallery while serving in the US Navy in 1943, as a mental hospital nurse in the final years of World War Two.

Discharged in 1945, Rauschenberg studied art at a number of institutions including the Kansas City Art Institute, the Academie Julian in Paris, the Art Students League in New York and Black Mountain College in North Carolina. It was at Black Mountain where Robert Rauschenberg found his greatest influences. The painter Josef Albers ran the art department and as one of his assignments sent students out to find objects that could be deemed aesthetically interesting. This project was to prompt Rauschenberg's later fascination with 'found' items incorporated into many of his works. It was also in North Carolina where he first met the composer John Cage and the dancer and choreographer, Merce Cunningham, both of whom influenced him greatly.

Rauschenberg's first one-man show took place in 1951 at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York. At this time his work was minimalist in style, often using single colours in his paintings. In the mid-50s, he developed a collage and montage technique called 'combine painting' using real objects such as photographs and 'found' objects which he affixed to the painting's surface. His studio was a junk heap, containing items as varied as cola bottles, clocks, radios and fragments of clothing which would eventually be integrated into his work.

Rauschenberg's innovative technique included being the first artist to incorporate silk-screen printing on canvas, and by the end of the Fifties his reputation was assured. One of his most famous works, 'Monogram' (1955-1959) featured a stuffed goat with a rubber tyre surrounding his middle and splashed with paint in a style reminiscent of Action painting.

In 1966, fueled by his desire to fuse art with technology, he helped form EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) a group enabling artists and engineers to work together. Moving away from Abstract Expressionism, he became involved in theatre production, choreography and Pop Art as he extended the means through which his ideas could be expressed. From 1984 through 1991, the artist pursued the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI). In this program, Rauschenberg and his assistants travelled the world to work collaboratively with artists and craftsmen of many nationalities.

In 1997, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, exhibited the largest retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work to date, which traveled to Houston and to Europe in 1998. Rauschenberg died at the age of 82 in May 2008 at his home in Captiva Island Florida, USA.

“My work is about wanting to change your mind. Not for the art’s sake, not for the sake of that individual piece, but for the sake of the mutual co-existence of the entire environment.”

More art prints from Robert Rauschenberg

Sky Garden By Robert Rauschenberg
Quote, 1964 By Robert Rauschenberg
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