Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jill Krementz covers "Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends" at MoMA

"Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. I try to act in that gap between the two. My whole area of art has always been addressed to working with other people. Ideas are not real estate."
Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends
May 27, 2017-September 17, 2017
MoMA: Floor Four

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) did a little bit of everything.  His art includes photography, collages, sculpture, silk screens, posters, a taxidermied Albanian goat bisected by a rubber tire, and a vat of 8,000 pounds of burbling drillers’ mud.

Robert Rauschenberg with Marion Javits. Photographed by Jill Krementz on January 21, 1968.
Graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff, Robert Rauschenberg, and Leo Castelli. Photographed by Jill Krementz on September 5, 1974.
Louise Nevelson and Robert Rauschenberg. Photographed by Jill Krementz at the American Academy of Arts & Letters on May 17, 1978.
Robert Rauschenberg and Marisol. Photographed by Jill Krementz.
He collaborated with his friends, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Laurie Anderson and Trisha Brown. Video presentations of the dance works, in which Bob often appeared (or designed the costumes), are sprinkled throughout the exhibition projected on either suspended banners or on the floor.

MoMA’s design team collaborated on these installations with video artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas.

I photographed Mr. Rauschenberg over the years, starting in 1968 when Marion Javits and her husband Senator  Jacob  Javits hosted a party for him at their apartment.  Other guests included Jasper Johns, Clay Felker, Milton Glaser, Jean and William Vanden Heuvel, David Frost and Jules Feiffer.

On September 5, 1974 I worked on “A Day in the Life of America” for Life magazine and my dozen or so sessions included Robert Rauschenberg at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Mr. Castelli was his long time dealer.

Our last encounter was on May 17, 1978 at the annual Ceremonial of the American Academy of Arts and Letters where Rauschenberg was inducted as a member and welcomed by his colleagues, Louise Nevelson and Marisol.

Rauschenberg on cover
of Time magazine.
I still have the Time magazine 9-page cover story by Robert Hughes which appeared on November 29, 1976 when the weekly only cost $1.00. "The art of the '70s," Hughes notes, "is eclectic: video, earthworks, landscape, and straight painting are all part of it. He is the great model of the multiplicity of this era."

Romantically, Rauschenberg was at first involved with various women prior to his marriage to American Artist Susan Weil, who bore him a son Christopher.  Subsequently the artist ran off with various artists — Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelley; and then, for many years, was in love with Jasper Johns.

The Retrospective of 250 works spanning the 4th floor of MoMA is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  It has been organized by Leah Dickerman with the assistance of Achim Borchardt-Hume, Emily Liebert, and Jenny Harris. The exhibit has come to us from the Tate Modern and in November of 2018 will move on to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

As for the 414 page illustrated catalogue by Leah Dickerman and Achim Borchardt-Hume (with contributions by 15 others) — it weighs a ton but, trust me — you will want to purchase it.
On the wall as you enter the exhibition there is a collage of photographs depicting Robert Rauschenberg and his friends, many of whom were his collaborators and/or lovers.

Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions at the Tate Modern, with MoMA curator Leah Dickerman.

Ms. Dickerman and Mr. Borschardt -Hume were co-organizers of the Rauschenberg exhibition at MoMA which was on view in a different iteration at the Tate Modern (December 1, 2016 to April 2, 2017).

The curators are co-authors of the splendid catalogue.

Untitled (double Rauschenberg)
c. 1950
Exposed blueprint paper

To make this work, Rauschenberg pressed his body against a large sheet of light-sensitive paper, the kind used by architects and commercial designers. Susan Weil, a fellow artist and his wife at the time, shone a light above him, turning the areas of exposed paper blue; this process was then repeated, creating the doubling effect.
Female Figure, c. 1950
Exposed blueprint paper
Sue, c. 1950

Part of a series of blueprints that the newly married couple, just back from their first year at Black Mountain College, made in their small walk-up apartment in New York.

The blueprints are early examples of Rauschenberg's lifelong interest in exploring new forms of mark- making beyond the traditional means of brushing paint on canvas.
Cy, Black Mountain, 1951
Gelatin silver print

Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg met when they were both students at the Art Students League in NYC. Subsequently they were fellow students at Black Mountain and then became lovers during which time they shared adjacent studios and collaborated on many pieces.

Hazel Larsen Archer
Merce Cunningham Dancing

circa 1952-53
Vintage gelatin silver print

Rauschenberg met Cunningham at Black Mountain and they were life-long friends.
A photograph of Rauschenberg taken by Dennis Hopper in 1966.
Sarah Beth Walsh is the senior press officer working on the Rauschenberg.
Target with Four Faces by Jasper Johns (1955). Encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas surmounted by four tinted-plaster faces in wood box with hinged front.

Deborah Soloman, wearing her own bejeweled target, is writing an authorized biography of Jasper Johns.

"I love this show because it establishes Rauschenberg as super-influential. He came up with the brilliant idea of making paintings from everything except paint."
Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns collaboration: Minutiae, 1954
Oil, paper, fabric, newspaper, wood, paint sample color chart, graphite, metal, and plastic, with hanging mirror, on wood supports

That is my friend award wnning art critic Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) studying the dimensional installation.
Art critic Larry Qualls and Minutiae.

"What this exhibition does is indicate Rauschenberg's true significance for the art of the second half of the 20th Century. He was not just another object-maker but the central figure of the great disruption that saw the jettisoning of all formal constraints in music, art, and movement, including the rules and roles."
If you look carefully you will see there is a mirror incorporated onto Minutiae. Yes, that's me with my tiny Canon.

Tom and Leslie Freudenheim standing in front of Untitled Red.

The Freudenheims, former curators of The Jewish Museum, told me: "We worked there on Bob's first retrospective in 1963 so for us this show is like a trip down memory lane."

Leslie, a writer about architecture, published an illustrated biography of Frank Lloyd Wright — The Man who Played with Blocks.

"Unpacking the Archives," celebrating the 150th anniversary of Frank Loyd Wright (curated by Barry Bergdoll), is the featured exhibit on MoMA's 3rd floor.

Oil, pencil, toothpaste, and red fingernail polish on pillow, quilt and bedsheet mounted on wood supports

Once, Rauschenberg recalled, when he could not afford to buy a canvas, he decided to make a painting on a patchwork quilt given to him by the artist Dorothea Rockburne.

Riffing on the quilt's function as a bedspread, he added a sheet and a pillow and covered the entire arrangement with abstract painterly marks. The pencil strokes across the pillow's surface are likely by the artist Cy Twombly, who frequently worked in Rauschenberg's Fulton Street studio at the time.

Through Bed, Rauschenberg suggested that artmaking was less
a solitary pursuit than one that took shape in a setting of friendship and exchange. Rauschenberg described Bed "as one of the friendliest pictures I've ever painted. My fear has always been that someone would want to crawl into it."

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.

In this work Rauschenberg reimagined the chariot of the Greek god Apollo, whose daily task was to move the sun across the sky. As Gift for Apollo shows, Rauschenberg's work on stage with moving bodies and portable sets served as inspiration for his paintings and sculptures.

"When sculptural or collage elements go so three-dimensional," he would say, with this work in mind, "then the most natural thing in the world was to put wheels on it and put it out into the middle of the room."
David White, senior curator of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Winter Pool, 1959
Oil, paper, fabric, wood, metal, sandpaper, tape, printed paper, printed reproductions, fragments of a man's shirt, handkerchief, handheld wood bellows, and found painting on two canvases conjoined by wood ladder
Chris Rauschenberg (65), son of Robert Rauschenberg and artist Susan Weil, is a photographer whose professional name is Christopher Rauschenberg. Behind him: his father's painting which incorporates a photograph of Chris as a young boy.

In 1959, Rauschenberg received a phone call from his friend the artist Sari Dienes, who offered him a taxi-dermied eagle she had found among things destined for the trash. Chris told me "the eagle couldn't be sold because of its legal stature and besides, no one had any money at the time."

Once the bird was in his studio, Rauschenberg set to work incorporating it into his canvas among other nontraditional materials — the cuff of a man's shirtsleeve, an industrial metal canister, a pillow Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns all collaged among fabric, photographs, and other printed matter and covered with various forms of paint.

Rauschenberg's inclusion of the eagle has been seen as a reference to the classical Greek myth of Ganymede, in which Zeus becomes enamored with a beautiful young boy and takes the form of an eagle to abduct him.
Detail of photograph (1955) of Chris. "My father took the photograph of me in Central Park with his Rollie."
Monogram, 1955-1959
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
Rauschenberg purchased the stuffed Angora goat included in Monogram for $15 from a second-hand store. He then spent four years figuring out how best to incorporate this large and cumbersome object into a painting. First, he affixed it to a wall- mounted canvas, the work he would eventually call Rhyme, displayed nearby, and covered both with paint and other materials. Not satisfied, he removed the goat from the wall, pushed it through a tire, and placed it on a wood platform attached to a long upright panel.

First Time Painting, 1961
Oil, paper, fabric, sailcloth, plastic exhaust cap, alarm clock, sheet metal, adhesive tape, metal springs, wire, and string on canvas
For his contribution to Hommage à David Tudor, Rauschenberg produced First Time Painting onstage. He turned the back of the canvas to the audience and obscured his work from view, but attached contact microphones that amplified the sound of his brushstrokes. He declared the work finished when the alarm clock embedded in its surface rang, at which point he wrapped the work in paper and carried it out of the theater. It was only the next day, at the Galerie Daniel Cordier, that those patient enough to wait could view the front of First Time Painting for the first time.
Jean Tinguely with Billy Klüver, Fragment from Homage to New York, 1960
Painted Metal, fabric, tape, wood and rubber hose

There are works throughout by pals of Rauschenberg so read the labels carefully.

Two more examples of various pieces by friends of Robert Rauschenberg —
A flag by Jasper Johns (1954) and a giant soft fan (1967) by Claes Oldenberg.

Pantomime, 1961
Oil, enamel, paper, fabric, wood, metal, rubber wheel, and electric fans on canvas
By including two fans — which were originally functional — in this work, Rauschenberg was exploring the way a painting can affect the space it occupies. He would later describe the fans as a way of "keeping [the painting] fresh and in constant relation to the atmosphere of the room." Rauschenberg incorporated increasingly unwieldy everyday objects into his paintings, and as a result they became, in his words, "awkward physically," reaching into the space of the room.
Ace, 1962
Oil, paper, card-board, paint-can label, umbrella, doorknob, fabric, wood, nails and metal on canvas; five panels

Rauschenberg's first plan for Ace was to install a wireless speaker behind each of its five canvas panels. When he found the panels too shallow to house them, however, he set them aside and endeavored instead "to use very few materials in an unorthodox nature."

Playing with the conventions of painting, Rauschenberg signed this work in two parts and on opposite ends — with a printed red "R" on the bottom of the far left panel, and the rest of his name, "auschenberg," stenciled in pencil on the far right.

Sharon Ullman is the Acting Executive Director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Leah Dickerman with Gold Standard.
Andy Warhol
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Rauschenberg Family), 1962
Silk-screen on canvas

Warhol made this portrait following a visit by Rauschenberg to his studio in 1962, during which Warhol demonstrated how he was using the silkscreen technique (generally used for commercial art) to make paintings.

When Warhol offered to make him a portrait, Rauschenberg provided a selection of personal photographs, including the one featured here, showing members of his family in Port Arthur, Texas, in the late 1920s or early 1930s.
The image evokes the source of the painting's title, James Agee and Walker Evans's 1941 photo-book of the same name, which documented sharecroppers in the rural South during the Great Depression.

Rauschenberg was by no means famous at the time the work was made, so the title may also reflect Warhol's admiration for the older and more established artist.

Retroactive I, 1964
Oil and silk-screen-ink print on canvas

"Kennedy ... reestablished what a President is supposed to be — somebody special," Rauschenberg reflected. "One of the things that was so shocking about his death was that it was so believable; it wasn't out of scale with the strength and abruptness of all the things he'd done in office." Having long admired John F. Kennedy, a few weeks before the president was assassinated in 1963, Rauschenberg ordered a silkscreen based on a photograph of Kennedy taken during his second presidential election debate with Richard Nixon, in 1960.

Initially uncertain whether he should use the image in the wake of the assassination, Rauschenberg forged ahead, honoring Kennedy's memory by repeating this powerful image across seven canvases, including the ones on view here.

Overdrive, 1963
Oil and silkscreen-ink print on canvas

Tracer, 1963
Oil and silkscreen-ink print on canvas
There are birds and eagles throughout Rauschenberg's works.
Oracle, 1962-1965
Rauschenberg with Toby Fitch, Harold Hodges, Billy Klüver, and Robert K. Moore.
Five part found-metal assemblage with five concealed remote-control radios; exhaust pipe on on metal axel 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 wooded window frame and ventilation duct on wood support with wheels,
Another collaboration — this time with six artists
Robert Rauschenberg, Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank LaHaye, Jim Wilkinson
Mud Muse, 1968-1971
Bentonite mixed with water in aluminum-and-glass vat, with sound-activated compressed-air system and control console
The basin of Mud Muse is filled with eight thousand pounds of mud made of bentonite, commonly used while drilling oil or natural gas wells. (Rauschenberg may have been familiar with the mud pits associated with drilling from his Texas upbringing.) Sound-activated pneumatic tubes installed in its base pump air through the mud in response to a tape recording of the sounds of the burbling clay itself. To create this complex feedback loop, Rauschenberg collaborated with a team of engineers from the aerospace and manufacturing corporation Teledyne, as part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Art and Technology Program. The resulting work seems simultaneously primordial — evoking ancient tar pits — and futuristic.
Gary Garrels and Sarah Roberts are curating the Rauschenberg exhibit, which will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) November 18, 2017-March 25, 2018).
"It opens just before Thanksgiving. The show will not include Cy Twombly or Jasper Johns pieces and we will add a small Combine collection of our own."

Signs, 1970
Close ups of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and Janis Joplin.
President Kennedy, Vietnam soldiers, and Buzz Aldrin.
Installation view.
Sor Aqua (Venetian), 1973
Wood and metal suspended with rope over water-filled bathtub with glass jug
Detail of bathtub.
Merce Cunningham, choreography
Robert Rauschenberg, set and costumes
John Cage, music

Travelogue, 1977: Footage from performance at Artpark, Lexington, New York, and at the University of Buffalo, 1979.

There are multiple videos presentations of dance works in which Bob often appeared (or designed the costumes) projected on the walls and floor throughout the show. Often filmed, or re-edited by Charles Atlas, they are clips from Rauschenberg's collaborations with his friends, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Laurie Anderson, and Trisha Brown.
Gull (Jammer), 1976
Sewn fabric, rattan poles, and twine
Installation view.

Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987
Riveted metal road signs, car parts, and gas station signs

In 1985 Rauschenberg traveled to Houston where he was being honored by the Contemporary Arts Museum. At that time the state's economy was in the midst of a recession due to a glut in the oil market. Rauschenberg was struck by a landscape littered with failed gas stations, abandoned cars, and flattened oil barrels.

After returning home to Captiva, Florida, he began making a series of sculptures out of scrap-metal parts, many of which he had collected from the Gulf Iron and Metal junkyard outside Fort Myers. "It's a time of glut. Greed is rampant ... I simply want to present people with their ruins," he explained.
Jasper Johns: Painted Bronze, 1960

Johns cast two ale cans in bronze and then painted them to resemble the originals. He recalled that his inspiration for the work was a story about the Abstract Expressionist artist Willem de Kooning. Frustrated with Johns's dealer, Leo Castelli, who was actively supporting work by a new generation of artists, de Kooning apparently commented, "That son-of-a-bitch; you could give him two beer cans and he could sell them." That gave Johns an idea: "I heard this and thought, 'What a sculpture—two beer cans.' ... So I did them and Leo sold them."
Top: Glut Data, 1986
Riveted industrial metal parts

Hiccups, 1978
Solvent transfer and fabric with metal zippers on ninety seven sheets of handmade paper. In this work, Rauschenberg gathered images from popular magazines and transferred them to sheets of handmade paper by running them through a lithographic press.

That is longtime security guard John McPherson, Jr., who always makes my day.
The ninety-seven sheets are connected by zippers and can be zipped and unzipped in any order.
Rauschenberg's use of zippers in Hiccups was perhaps inspired by his brief stint working as a zipper inspector for a bathing suit company in 1948.

Urban Katydid (Glut), 1986
Riveted metal street signs on stainless steel base
Deborah Solomon with Mark Rosenthal, a well-known curator who has worked at every museum on the planet. MoMA's Curator of Photography Roxana Marcoci with Leah Dickerman.
Autobiography, 1968
Offset lithograph on three sheets of paper (orientation variable). Publisher and printer: Broadside Art, Inc., New York, Edition: 2000

Rauschenberg's Autobiography is the first fine-art print to have been made on a billboard press and is one of several works that reflect his desire to print on a monumental scale.

Each of its three components contains a kind of retrospective self- portrait. In the top panel, Rauschenberg included a full-scale X-ray of his own body.

In the central panel, he incorporated a photograph of himself as a two-year-old with his parents, boating near their home in Port Arthur, Texas. This image is superimposed with a fingerprint-like whorl of autobiographical text, in which Rauschenberg described pivotal moments and many enriching collaborations.

The bottom panel features an image of him dancing in Pelican (1963), his first performance work.
Curator Leah Dickerman checking out vitrine with photographs and ephemera relating to Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) and the ten performances that were part of 9 Evenings at the 69th Regiment Armory.

In frames above: Herb Schneider's engineering drawings for 9 Evenings.
Art critic Jason Kaufman (with wrist strap from his camera around his hand) and Gary Garrels.

Mr. Kaufman: "To me, his work represents the profusion of images and materials that filled late 20th-century American life — and also the freedom with which an individual can play in the abundant fields where that profusion is transmuted into art. He was promiscuous in his materials and collaborations, yet MoMA has organized what might have been chaos into a beautiful, coherent, informative, and often innovative installation."
Kelsey Knutson (Administrative Assistant, Painting and Culture), Akili Tommasino (Curatorial Assistant), Curator Anne Umland, and Phyllis Tuchman (free lance art writer for The New York Times).

It's always a pleasure to see MoMA staff members attend a press preview even though they are not directly involved with the current exhibition. The ubiquitous and hard working Ms. Tuchman is always everywhere.

Before starting his first collaboration with Gemini Graphic Editions Limited (G.E.L.), Rauschenberg announced to Sidney Felsen, the print shop's founder, "I'm thinking about doing a self-portrait of inner man."

Over the next nine days he created Booster, a print featuring a six-part X-ray of his full body. Booster was the largest hand-pulled print at the time it was made. It shows Rauschenberg's ongoing interest in making prints at a scale typically reserved for painting.
The catalogue and other related books are on sale in the gift shop on the 4th floor. Various framed (and unframed) posters by Robert Rauschenberg are also on sale at the museum.
Following the press preview we all convened downstairs in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater
where MoMA Director Glenn Lowry interviewed curator Leah Dickerman about the spectacular retrospective.

Projected on the wall, 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
Projected on the wall, a photograph of the acclaimed artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas with whom the MoMA exhibition was created.
Glenn Lowry and Chris Rauschenberg.
Achim Borchardt-Hume and Glenn Lowry.

Cinematographer Mead Hunt and Filmmaker Amei Wallach are shooting a documentary, Americans in Venice: Robert Rauschenberg Rewrites the Rules for WNET.

They were about to leave for the 2017 Venice Biennale to shoot Mark Bradford, Shirin Neshat, Marina Abramovic as examples of how alive Rauschenberg is in respect to the Americans on exhibit.
Chris Rauschenberg and his wife, Janet Stein. Janet is a nurse practitioner who works in an African American community clinic specializing in women's health.

They both live in Portland.
Gary Garrels, Achim Borchardt-Hume, Leah Dickerman, Glenn Lowry, and Sarah Roberts.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.