Representation

Research - Amikam Toren by Ally McGinn

Toren first worked as a stage designer before moving to London in 1968, moving to art after receiving a grant to study at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Some of the departments within the company seemed ridiculous to the Israeli born artist. (Baker, 2013)

Toren is drawn to conceptual art but felt that he wanted to create something that could be touched, something I can relate to in many ways. (Baker, 2013)

He created a series of large-scale paintings, each containing an abstracted letter formed with paint made from pulping an issue of the London times. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) This makes the materials hidden because without hearing or reading that story the origin of the materials is unclear. This incorporation of a hidden context within the materials is an interesting mix of conceptual and material.

Amikam Toren (1992)  Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992.  Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

Amikam Toren (1992) Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992. Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

A continuation of this idea, which makes me happy in a way I cannot articulate, is what Toren calls a ‘pidgin’ painting, (Baker, 2013) (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) which is a stretched canvas with removed sections of the fabric, the removed parts are turned into a form of paint (using a coffee grinder) which covers the remainder of the surface. This relational and dependant narrative is a beautifully executed idea.

Amikam Toren (2002)  Pidgin Painting (Yessss).  Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

Amikam Toren (2002) Pidgin Painting (Yessss). Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

In the early 1970’s Toren became obsessed with fragments, an obsession he claims continues to this day as a foundation for his work. (Baker, 2013)

Amikam Toren (1975)  Simple Fraction III.  Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

Amikam Toren (1975) Simple Fraction III. Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

In the Simple Fraction series, he takes an object that has been broken and would be regarded as useless (or pre-use regarding recycling) in this case a broken milk bottle.  (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) Painstakingly reassembled the reformed object is displayed next to a drawing of the cracks formed. This series is an example of the multiple links found in his work. Like a fractal, the work speaks more the more the viewer looks at it. The white paper, the focus on the lines and marks in the drawing, the white shelf the bottle sits on, and the simplistic wooden frame all speak about links and meaning in the work.

Amikam Toren (1979)  Neither a Teapot nor a Painting.  Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

Amikam Toren (1979) Neither a Teapot nor a Painting. Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

In 1979 he created ‘Neither a teapot nor a painting’ a piece invoking Magritte’s ‘this is not a pipe.' (Artsy, Undated) I now find myself stuck between which piece is my favourite depiction of this idea. Magritte for its originality and impact and Toren’s for the attention to materiality in the concept. Toren turned a teapot into the paint which he then used to paint an image of the teapot that no longer exists. The painting is displayed alongside one of the unwanted fragments of the teapot, placed in a pigment jar.  To me, at the moment, this idea and presentation are quite simply perfect.

"The drive," Toren said, "was simply to reverse the notion that in representation, the subject is excluded from its representation." (Baker, 2013)

Toren had no formal art education, instead, he worked as an assistant to another artist for a few years. (Baker, 2013) The artist, Peter Hesse, opposed the commercial side of the artworld, an opinion that stuck with Toren throughout his career.  Toren's work contains a dry humour which he saw as inevitable given that his work is about the deconstruction of the human condition.

When talking about humour, he said, "I don't seek it, because I don't want to be a kind of entertainer," he said. "But it matters to me to the extent it would have mattered to somebody like Chekhov, who wasn't a comedian, but there is a lot of humour in his plays because they deal with the human condition." (Baker, 2013)

In his piece, ‘One’ from 2014 a section of a primed canvas has been cut from the surface and stuck in reverse back onto the surface. Showing the reality of the object and its materials, a recurring theme in Toren's work. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren worked on a series he called ‘Armchair paintings’ from the 1980’s. The set is composed of paintings purchased from street markets, which Toren then works on top of.  Adding a simplistic text style, each piece, and the resulting increase in the value of the artworks, speaks about the authorship and value of the piece, and of the artwork itself. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren’s works as a tutor at City and Guilds of London.  On his staff page he says about his work; “Underlying my practice is the idea that representation is a tautology. (a chair would be made out of its own matter into a painting of itself). This position reverses the age-old maxim, which states that representation excludes its subject.” (City and Guilds, Undated)

His process combines a witty dialogue between accumulation and reduction, and I find I can look at it far longer than the work of some other artists. Each piece is a simple everyday object or idea, and the reduction and assemblage of information moves his work into a practice about language, meaning itself and our interpretations of it. 

Amikam Toren (2012)  A User's Guide to Married Life.  Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

Amikam Toren (2012) A User's Guide to Married Life. Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

A note has to be made about his piece  ‘A users guide to married life’. (Artsy, Undated) Reminiscent of the simple, yet very intelligent, connections Toren is brilliant at making, this edition can be enjoyed for its simplicity or as a tool to explore more profound meaning. Which is probably my favourite thing about Toren as an artist.

The meaning is visual and brought by the viewer, for the most part. They will read this in a way that adds an element of mirroring of their own life.  Simple pictorial clues will mean different things to different people depending on what affect and effect marriage has had on their experience.

Reflection

It's obvious from the text how much I enjoy Toren’s work. The simple witticism of his work inspires me and is something I would like to capture, in my own way.

I've been inspired by Toren to disassemble canvas, physically. This began last year with fringing but I've begun to take it further with the aim of turning the material of canvas into a thick liquid that could be formed into a mold or reshaped.

Bibliography

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : Neither a Teapot nor a Painting [Online] Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-neither-a-teapot-nor-a-painting-1 [Accessed 18.11.17].

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : A User’s Guide to Married Life [Online] Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-a-users-guide-to-married-life [Accessed 18.11.17].

Baker, K. (2013) Amikam Toren finally able to live by his art [Online] Available from: http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Amikam-Toren-finally-able-to-live-by-his-art-5056227.php [Accessed 17.11.17].

City and Guilds (Undated) Amikam Toren : Fine Art Tutor [Online] Available from: http://www.cityandguildsartschool.ac.uk/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Jessica Silverman Gallery (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://jessicasilvermangallery.com/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/amikam-toren-16792 [Accessed 17.11.17].

Studio Research - Week 10 by Ally McGinn

This week involved a great deal of discussion, a shift in thinking, statement writing and logistic issues. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  Reflection . Paint tube, oil paint, photograph and pencil, 20 x 15 x 7 cm approximately.  This piece has evolved over the last few weeks. The source of its creation is hard to pinpoint in a single source. It shows, rather, the development of thought, and a focussing of idea. Documentation of the early stages of this piece can be found in week eight. I feel it is one of the most successful pieces, in an individual sense, created this term (and therefore on the MA so far). It is tempting here to contextually deconstruct this piece, but I find that I am reluctant to. Instead I will leave it here, in a digital space, to allow it its existence.

Ally McGinn (2017) Reflection. Paint tube, oil paint, photograph and pencil, 20 x 15 x 7 cm approximately.

This piece has evolved over the last few weeks. The source of its creation is hard to pinpoint in a single source. It shows, rather, the development of thought, and a focussing of idea.
Documentation of the early stages of this piece can be found in week eight.
I feel it is one of the most successful pieces, in an individual sense, created this term (and therefore on the MA so far).
It is tempting here to contextually deconstruct this piece, but I find that I am reluctant to.
Instead I will leave it here, in a digital space, to allow it its existence.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Painting  [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust, size varies.  This piece is a large paint skin, with dust collected from the studio over a period of three months. It is placed in such a way as to be ambiguous (although this would change in a gallery setting). Sadly it lived up to it's ambiguity, and was thrown away by a well intentioned anonymous party. There is something beautiful about that interaction.   The artwork had a choice based interaction with another person.

Ally McGinn (2017) Painting [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust, size varies.

This piece is a large paint skin, with dust collected from the studio over a period of three months. It is placed in such a way as to be ambiguous (although this would change in a gallery setting). Sadly it lived up to it's ambiguity, and was thrown away by a well intentioned anonymous party. There is something beautiful about that interaction. 

The artwork had a choice based interaction with another person.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Potentiality.  Canvas, paper, paint, ink, pencil and acorn, size varies.  This piece speaks most clearly about potentiality. The pencil line on the wall is a line from the smaller piece, but I hope it encourages the small question of, which piece is it hinting at.  The colour hidden behind grey (which is the same paint as the floor) is echoed in the materials involved. The colourful piece is a photocopy of an old work, it is stretched around nothing. The grey is traditionally made, with attention to detail, and a single colour.  The small seed is leaning between the wall and the work. It has cracked with age, mimicking the edge of the grey canvas. It's potentiality is undeniable and allegorical to the connection between artwork and context.  When placed in the installation it connects to the hidden storage of work behind the canvas wall, which also speaks about potentiality. Linking across the space in a metaphysical sharing of context.

Ally McGinn (2017) Potentiality. Canvas, paper, paint, ink, pencil and acorn, size varies.

This piece speaks most clearly about potentiality. The pencil line on the wall is a line from the smaller piece, but I hope it encourages the small question of, which piece is it hinting at.

The colour hidden behind grey (which is the same paint as the floor) is echoed in the materials involved. The colourful piece is a photocopy of an old work, it is stretched around nothing. The grey is traditionally made, with attention to detail, and a single colour.

The small seed is leaning between the wall and the work. It has cracked with age, mimicking the edge of the grey canvas. It's potentiality is undeniable and allegorical to the connection between artwork and context.

When placed in the installation it connects to the hidden storage of work behind the canvas wall, which also speaks about potentiality. Linking across the space in a metaphysical sharing of context.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Enframed.  Found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.  This piece has been discussed in the documentation of earlier weeks. Like ' Reflection' , this piece has evolved through a process of consideration and adjustment. The addition of this week is the painted floor, adding a full-stop to this conversation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Enframed. Found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

This piece has been discussed in the documentation of earlier weeks. Like 'Reflection', this piece has evolved through a process of consideration and adjustment.
The addition of this week is the painted floor, adding a full-stop to this conversation.

Ally McGinn (2017)  A New Conversation  [Working Title]. Mixed media installation, size varies.  The pieces in my work are individual in a sense and yet remain part of a larger whole. If the installation is a conversation, the pieces inside it are sentences, the individual elements of pieces can be seen as words, and finishing the analogy the materials become letters.  This analogy leaves a lot to be desired but it serves for the purpose of this metaphor.

Ally McGinn (2017) A New Conversation [Working Title]. Mixed media installation, size varies.

The pieces in my work are individual in a sense and yet remain part of a larger whole. If the installation is a conversation, the pieces inside it are sentences, the individual elements of pieces can be seen as words, and finishing the analogy the materials become letters.

This analogy leaves a lot to be desired but it serves for the purpose of this metaphor.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Glitch.  Digital print.  Three shots amalgamated into one, by my camera. An incidental camera glitch. It's dark and the colouring is terrible for a traditional photo.  I love it.  A photography machine.

Ally McGinn (2017) Glitch. Digital print.

Three shots amalgamated into one, by my camera. An incidental camera glitch. It's dark and the colouring is terrible for a traditional photo.

I love it.

A photography machine.

Research- Exhibition Trip - Spike Island by Ally McGinn

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition]. Spike Island, Bristol. 30 September - 17 December 2017.

Visit: 26th November 2017

This exhibition was recommended to me by fellow students on the MA as they began to get to know my work. I went with my daughter, the perspective of a 6-year-old is extremely interesting, and it quickly overtook Jasper Johns as my favourite exhibition experience this year.

From the exhibition catalogue

Kim Yong-Ik is a Korean artist born in 1947 in Seoul. This is his first solo show in Europe and was preceded by an exhibition in Korea. He is known for his questioning nature and playful execution of works. Kim has remained firmly detached from any set art movement, a distance that allows him to subvert and challenge the practices of art institutions. This description fits the underlying nature of the works in this show.

A major turning point for Kim was the repression in his country in the 1980’s. At a time when he was writing a thesis about Duchamp, he was invited to take part in a show, the ‘Young Artists Biennial’. His works, which were paintings, were boxed, shipped and shown in the exhibition, still in their boxes. The boxes were stacked as a sculpture in the exhibition. This work serves as a response to the political upheaval and Modernist painting.

Kim is known for his uncertainty in his place in the art world, and the ‘role art should play in society’. His continuing practice pushed painting into sculpture, often working with the space of display within the work.  

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

A key piece in the exhibition, for me, was made in this time. Near an access door to the gallery at Spike Island, a fantastic placement for this work, is a pile of unwanted works, and packaging materials. The pile is left haphazardly and the viewer is left unsure whether the works are simply waiting to be cleared away. Due to the nature of the gallery, without titles on the walls, the only clue that this an artwork is found in the accompanying catalogue and exhibition guide.

This ambiguous work is utterly brilliant, it immediately forces the viewer to ask a question.
Kim said about the work that “it is also a metaphor for many of my parent’s generation who crossed the line of life and death based on their decision to be left wing or right wing.” A deeply personal and political message that the artist has found expression with through the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim's works interact with the space around them without becoming totally site-specific. They fit the space, without being reliant on it. Something I am attempting to achieve in my works. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The title of the exhibition comes from writing on one of the works in the show. Writing is a key element of Kim’s practice. The stack of boxed paintings has a new addition for this exhibition. He has written ‘Spike Island’ and the date one each crate.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The single most exciting feature of this exhibition, seen here as a whole, is the writing on the walls Kim has made to explain things about the work. These small additions are a site specific interaction with the presentation of an existing artwork. They are small, and light, and could easily be missed. Many require the viewer to sit on the floor to see them.
I took photos of a few, and they are brilliant additions to the work, and show the performative aspect of practice.

Kim returns to many artworks, seeing the process as ongoing, and enjoys allowing time and chance to affect the works.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The final section of the exhibition, depending on how you move around the space, features recent works. These sit between painting and sculpture, paintings within sculptures. Kim has encased paintings inside coffin-like cases. Known as the ‘Coffin’ series these works are inscribed with various writings. An accompanying paper translates these for the viewer.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Many of the texts describe or somehow comment on the work, sometimes directly but often romantically or poetically. Some are simply documentary. The inclusion of these elements of text contextualises the work, within the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This exhibition has been extremely influential, and I imagine it will only become more influential as I continue to review it, and hopefully visit once more before it closes.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Reflection

This exhibition has quickly become one of the most influential I have seen this year. The works are a combination of Kim's personal subject matter (including circles) and a questioning of art that is conceptually engaging. 
The works are carefully arranged, and full of surprises. His works and the context behind them have made me question, in the best possible way, my own practice and influences. 
It is really through this exhibition, and a subsequent reading of the accompanying material, that I have realised the links of my work to capitalism. A link later reiterated with the text The Experiential Turn. 

I havent written as much as I normally might about this exhibition, the experience shows more in the shift in practice that has come from the combination of this exhibition, studio research and contextual research in the past few weeks. 
I need to go back to the exhibition before it closes. I need another look and more time to think about these intricate implications.

Research - Robert Rauschenberg by Ally McGinn

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and performance artist who lived and worked in New York.  Rauschenberg didn't identify with the movements at the time, often acting against them. In the case of Abstract Expressionism, the significant art movement of the time in New York, he thought that to be a good Abstract Expressionist you had to have “time to feel sorry for yourself,” something he considered a waste of time. (McEwan, 2008)

Rauschenberg was an inventive figure, he constantly worked at the edge of thinking, working against the norms of the art world at the time. He described his practice as one of “bringing the outside in” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) a process that involved the use of found materials, images and objects. His practice can be described as re-presenting and re-contextualising the everyday, which could be an argument for what art itself is.

Rauschenberg is an extremely influential figure most famously known for his ‘combines’ created throughout the 1950’s, which as the name suggests combined painting and sculpture.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960)  Pilgrim . Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960) Pilgrim. Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Rauschenberg positioned his work in the spaces between. Talking about his work, he said, "Painting relates both to art and life. Neither can be made – I try to act in the gap between the two." (McEwan, 2008) Which can be applied to the mediums he explored, he bridged the gap between more than painting and sculpture. No medium was out of the reach of his curiosity, which he saw as one of the most important features an artist can have. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) Rauschenberg was a man who saw interest and beauty in all areas around him and worked with those ideas to form new conversations.

“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.” (Kimmelman, 2008)

These gaps are undefined areas, albeit more extensively explored now than in the 1950’s, and that lack of definition gave Rauschenberg the freedom to explore with a light-hearted intelligence that comes through in interviews.

Rauschenberg avoided over-contextualising his works, preferring to deal with the issue of making rather than prescribing meaning. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg studied under Josef Albers, who had previously taught at the Bauhaus. Albers had a firm view of where he stood in the artworld, and what art is, which was translated into a preliminary course that offered little in the way of freedom. This stable standpoint allowed Rauschenberg to push hard against those ideas, and while Albers might not be considered an artistic influence for Rauschenberg in the traditional sense, he informed the artist Rauschenberg would become. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) (McEwan, 2008) (Kimmelman, 2008)

While Rauschenberg didn't associate with any particular movement he has been linked with the Dadaists; His work was sometimes called Neo-Dadaist.  (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

When asked “what guides you?” he responded with the beautifully dry, “A lack of purpose.” Which highlights his belief in the function of art, which is to say that it has less to do with the artist than the art itself. As he put it “I have a sense that when I'm working well, I'm invisible.”(Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

He had an endless sense of what art is, in that it could be anything. Rauschenberg was asked whether he had suffered from a form of writer's block, the only answer, “no,” because he would “just go do something else.” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg was an avid egalitarian, believing in the equality of materials, subjects, and people. There is an honesty in this inclusion, which can be seen in the work. He was a man who was unafraid of challenging the paradigm.

Rauschenberg was an artist inspired by his surroundings and the people he met on his journeys. Reading about him and, more importantly, watching interviews with him hint at the fascinating way he saw the world. His prolific practice becomes more understandable when his perspective is appreciated, to Rauschenberg anything could be art with the right artist to pull strings.

Rauschenberg saw the potential of the materials he was working with, but more importantly perhaps saw the reality of what they already are. He worked with a surface of coloured pages from newspapers so that the painting wouldn’t have a beginning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) He already had a surface to work on.  He then added to what was already there. It could be argued that paints already do this to a degree. If you begin with the possibilities of the material, and you then let them do what they want to do.  The artist becomes a bystander.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55)  Collection.  Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55) Collection. Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

In his combines, the hierarchy of the materials is questioned and challenged. The use of found objects in his work was far from a new idea (he was working 30 years after Duchamp's’ ‘Fountain’) and was being explored by other artists at the time, however unlike some of the other artists Rauschenberg recognised that it is the relationships of the images he uses that have the most meaning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Equally inspiring for Rauschenberg was the work of dadaist Kurt Schwitters, whose collages contained rubbish collected off the streets. (Unnamed, 2013) Rauschenberg combined found objects (often found in his local neighbourhood in New York), with collage and painting. In this approach, he combined the reality of the objects represented against the illusionistic nature of painting. The medium became the representation of itself.

NASA invited Rauschenberg to watch the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969 (The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Undated) and was an artist working with developing technologies. In 1966 he launched ‘experiments in art and technology’ a non-profit organisation to promote work between artists and engineers. (Tate, Undated)

Robert Rauschenberg (1961)  This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So.  Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1961) This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So. Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

As an example that could be considered both condescending and enlightened Rauschenberg submitted a piece to the Galerie Iris Clert, for an exhibition where the subject was the owner herself. Rauschenberg’s offering was a short telegraph stating “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.” I have read a few opinions of this piece as one of the signs of the size of the artist's ego, but I think it can be taken to mean far more than that, echoing the opinion of ‘Fountain’ in its original form. Regardless of the artist's intentions, the fact remains, that art through nomination has precedent, and this ‘artwork’ is seen as one because of the very reason stated on it. (Lippard, 1997)

Robert Rauschenberg (1951)  White Painting [three   panel  ].  Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1951) White Painting [three panel]. Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

In 1951 he created a series of ‘White Paintings.'  The antithesis of the emotional and colourful work being done by the Abstract Expressionists, this series has been said to have been a precursor to Minimalism, by a decade.

The works in the series are formed of groups of modular panels, each the same size, shape, and form. Their size is based on a simple mathematical formula; the width is half the length of the height. This is the limit of the prescribed control that the artist has, beyond which the works become something more. Conceptual paintings.

They were first shown in 1953, at which point they were not well received, but by the mid-1960’s, when Minimalism was a more accepted form, they were re-shown and regarded far more positively.  (SFMOMA, Undated)

Rauschenberg was friends with composer and artist John Cage, whose theories of chance were influential. (Painters painting, 1973) The ‘White Paintings’ have been compared to Cage’s musical piece 4”33’, in which the musician plays nothing, and the music is the ambient and other sounds in the space itself. The ‘White Paintings’ can be seen similarly, their uniform surface allows for an appreciation of the space in the gallery, and the shadows cast onto the paintings themselves become a focus, as opposed to any subject within the paintings themselves. These white panels reflect the light of the space and reflect the mute potential of a blank canvas while highlighting the features of the existing surface.

An interesting note, I thought, was that the surface of these works is more important than any historical integrity for them. If the surface were marred in any way then it would be repainted, something Rauschenberg confirmed in a 1999 interview, so they become something beyond nostalgia. These panels have been repainted by some of Rauschenberg’s artist friends, including Cy Twombly and Brice Marden. (SFMOMA, 1999)

In the same discussion, Rauschenberg referred to the works as clocks, a way, if you were a sensitive enough viewer, to read the details of the space around you, using the surface of the paintings, in this sense they are mirrors that encourage the viewer to see beyond the work, to the world around them.

Robert Rauschenberg (1957)    Factum I and Factum II . Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

Robert Rauschenberg (1957) Factum I and Factum II. Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

In 1957 he created a diptych, which was displayed at a recent exhibition at the Tate Modern. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) ‘Factum 1’ and ‘Factum 2’ are collages that are identical in size and near identical on the surface. After creating the first, the second was made as close to the ‘original’ as the materials, and the artist's hand would allow. The pieces highlight the importance of the chance elements in the work, the drips that could not be controlled entirely for example. These aspects of the incidental and uncontrolled form a pause of sorts between the two pieces, a visual stutter as the viewer attempts to unpick the differences between the works. The external visuals Rauschenberg has used are identical, but other paint marks are not, which opens an interesting dialogue about the nature of accidents.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953)    Erased de Kooning Drawing . Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953) Erased de Kooning Drawing. Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

The more I look into Rauschenberg’s extensive works, the more I find of interest, but it remains relatively simple to articulate my favourite. ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing.’ Rauschenberg asked himself if there was a way to create something with an eraser.  When he realised that rubbing out one of his drawings was not wholly satisfying, he decided that what he needed was a drawing that was already a work of art.  Although initially reluctant De Kooning was convinced, although he proceeded to find a drawing with a combination of marks that would be difficult for Rauschenberg to erase, it took several weeks for him to complete the work.

The work has been compared to Duchamp’s LHOOQ, in which Duchamp drew a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

While the drawing is sometimes seen as a negative comment by Rauschenberg, the artist meant it as anything but.  Firstly it was done with Willem de Kooning’s consent and is often considered both a performative and collaborative work, the title contained within the frame was written by Jasper Johns. (Painters Painting, 1973)

For me, the work is important on various levels.  The fact that Rauschenberg chose De Kooning, who was possibly the most prominent Abstract Expressionist at the time, that he was able to create something with something normally used for destruction, that the result is minimal, that he is deleting a drawing (which was still and is still seen as the vital prelude to painting) and most importantly for me, that he is questioning what is art.  Was it art before he started??  Is it art now?? Whether both are true, or only one is, the comment and the process remain essential for our understanding of what art can be, and what artists can do.

Robert Rauschenberg was a man who responded to the world around him with clarity and confidence. His works are creative, challenging and deeply communicative. To Rauschenberg art doesn’t come from art, it comes from the world around us, and it should reflect that.

Attempting to quantify the influence of Rauschenberg on the artworld, and the world in general, would be incredibly difficult, and this short text barely touches the surface of a man I find endlessly fascinating, however, it shows a few of the ideas that Rauschenberg worked with and part of his perspective. (it might be better to say ‘the perspective he was’because everything I've read and seen of the man shows that his art was such a part of who he was that he became Art.)

A short note about the Tate Modern Exhibition (2016) made after my visit.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59)    Monument . Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59) Monument. Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Being able to see works I have only appreciated either digitally or in print remains indescribable. The rooms are varied, and occasionally the single link between the work is Rauschenberg himself. His prolific practice is explored, though apparently not fully experienced, through a brilliantly curated show, which retains a coherence that is a risk when investigating such a massive and varied archive of works.

This exhibition seems to epitomise the man rather than focus on any single aspect of his work. This exhibition showed the variety and accomplishment of this artist. Rauschenberg is hugely inspirational to me, regarding his fantastic work and the way he worked and lived.

As a retrospective, it is incredibly successful, in my opinion, as it balances the variety and development of his work without losing coherence or contact.

Rauschenberg was an incredibly inspirational man and artist, one who claimed to never experience writers block.  In his work the line between art and life is diminished, understanding the artist it becomes more evident that this line was reduced in his life as well as his studio. Art was his life, and he continued to do it whether feeling inspired and productive or depressed and drinking. A restless, curious, passionate, talented and inspirational artist and figure, the exhibition is one I am singularly glad I was able to go to.

Bibliography

Kimmelman, M. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, dies at 82’, New York Times, [Online] New York Times. Avaliable from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/arts/design/14rauschenberg.html?pagewanted=all [Accessed 18.11.18].

Lippard, L. ed (1997) Six years: the dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972…. London: University of California Press.

Manufacturing Intellect (2016) Robert Rauschenberg Interview (1998) [Online Video] Avaliable from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDUbPqBRPvY [Accessed 17.11.17].

McEwan, J. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg: Restlessly experimental artist whose career was a celebration of change’, Independent, [Online] Avaliable from:  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/robert-rauschenberg-restlessly-experimental-artist-whose-career-was-a-celebration-of-change-828260.html [Accessed 18.11.17].

Painters painting: a candid history of the modern art scene. (1973) [DVD] Emille de Antonio. USA: Arthouse films.

Robert Rauschenberg (2016) [Exhibition]. Tate Modern, London. 1 December 2016 - 2 April 2017.

SFMOMA (Undated) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951’ [Online] SFMOMA. Available from: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.308.A-C [Accessed 17.11.17].

SFMOMA (1999) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, video interview by David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 6, 1999.’ [Online] Available from: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sfmomamedia/media/uploads/documents/research/rrp_sfmoma_rauschenberg_interview_may_6_1999.pdf [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) ‘Experiements in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/e/experiments-in-art-and-technology [Accessed 17.11.17].

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Undated) ‘The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’ [Online] Available from: https://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/art-in-context/stoned-moon [Accessed 17.11.17].

Unnamed (2013) ‘Kurt Schwitters, inspiration of Pop Art’, The Telegraph, [Online] Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/9810512/Kurt-Schwitters-inspiration-of-Pop-Art.html [Accessed 18.11.17].