Born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg in 1925 in Texas, Robert Rauschenberg was an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Rauschenberg studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and theAcadémie Julian in Paris, France. In 1948 Rauschenberg and his wife Susan Weil decided to attend Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he studied under Josef Albers. Rauschenberg described Albers as influencing him to do “exactly the reverse” of what he was being taught. Rauschenberg is well-known for his “Combines” of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg’s approach was sometimes called “Neo-Dada,” a label he shared with the painter Jasper Johns. Rauschenberg’s oft-repeated quote that he wanted to work “in the gap between art and life” suggested a questioning of the distinction between art objects and everyday objects, reminiscent of the issues raised by the notorious “Fountain,” by Dada pioneer, Marcel Duchamp. At the same time, Johns’ paintings of numerals, flags, and the like, were reprising Duchamp’s message of the role of the observer in creating art’s meaning. While the Combines are both painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993. He also won a Grammy Award for his album design of ‘Talking Heads’ album, Speaking in Tongues. Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida until his death, May 12, 2008, from heart failure.
Robert Rauschenberg has had internationally acclaimed shows in numerous parts of the world. His major exhibitions include: “Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective,” the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1997) (traveled to the Menil Collection, Contemporary Arts Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne and the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, through 1999); “Combines,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2005) (traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, through 2007); and “Gluts,” the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2009), traveled to the Tinguely Museum, Basel, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese in 2010.