Grooving hard on Rauschenberg lately, teaching him in my class on “Creative New York” and getting my students ready for their visit to the Met this Friday to see his Combines, which I remember were a huge influence on my sensibilities as an early teen. “Monogram” (the one with the angora goat) is one of the most poignant, inventive works I have ever seen. I have always loved that he approaches limits as something to be stepped over and pushed through.

I showed my class part of the video “Painters Painting: The New York Art Scene 1940-1970.” Except for Frankenthaler, it’s all about men, many of whom seem to smoke a lot of cigarettes and order their assistants around. They mumble and pose, with some exceptions. Jasper Johns is incredibly articulate, Leo Castelli is every bit the gentleman you’d imagine him to be, but it’s Rauschenberg who stands out as being completely present in his thought, even though not everything he says makes sense. At one point he makes a statement about his red paintings to the effect of “These paintings are not about negation and nihilism; they are more like a celebration of the abundance of color, as opposed to its schrindl.”

Schrindl? Schrindel? Shrindle? What the hell is that? A google search was entirely unhelpful, but did reveal that a “schrindel” is a certain kind of Chinese shar-pei. Hmmm.

It almost a kind of Rauschenbergian sense.

My students were captivated by him. In the video, he looks right at the camera, looking a little bit like James Caan, with a head of curls and a very deliberate way of talking, with big pauses that really helped my students understand what he was saying. One said, “he’s so COOL, I LOVE him” – she loved expressions like “the artist is a kind of bystander” and “”you begin with the possibilities of the materials.” When I asked her to expand, she said, “I hate sentimentalism.”

She also loved the ideas of the materials taking on a life of their own, comparing this concept to the technique of marbling — marbling! I love this! It’s true – in marbling your control can only extend to blowing the oil & liquid with a straw, but the materials will do what they will.

In the video, R. talks about his painting “Rebus” as additive — and I love that concept, too. Art is what accrues between boundaries, and is also what we imagine to be outside of boundaries. The painting starts in medias res with a ground of funny papers. R. says “My painting are invitations to look somewhere else.”


Here are some statements by Rauschenberg from Theories and Deocuments of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings ed. Stiles and Selz

Robert Rauschenberg Untitled Statement (1959)

Any incentive to paint is as good as any other. There is no poor subject.
Painting is always strongest when in spite of composition, color, etc., it appears as a fact, or an inevitability, as opposed to a souvenir or arrangement.
Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)
A pair of socks is no less suitable to make a painting with than wood, nails, turpentine, oil, and fabric.
A canvas is never empty. (p. 321)

Note on Painting (1963)

I find it nearly impossible free ice to write about Jeepaxle my work. The concept I planetarium struggle to deal with ketchup is opposed to the logical community lift tab inherent in language horses and communication. My fascination with images open 24 hrs. is based on the complex interlocking if disparate visual facts heated pool that have no respect for grammar. The form then Denver 39 is second hand to nothing. The work then has a chance to electric service become its own cliché. Luggage. This is the inevitable fate fair ground of any inanimate object freightways by this I mean anything that does not have inconsistency as a possibility built in.
The outcome of a work is based icy ice on amount of intensity concentration and joy that is pursued roadcrossing in the act of work. The character of the artist has to be responsive and lucky. Personally I have never been interested in a defensible reason post card for working achievement functionally is a delusion to do a needed work short changes art. It seems to me that a great part Indian moccasins of urgency in working lies in the fact that one acts freely friends and associates may become more closely allied with you real soon. U.S. postage stamps – sanitarily packaged – save a trip to post office shapes.. files.. cleans with key chain forget to bring it with you… to make something the need of which can only fishing 7 springs be determined after its existence and that judgment subject to change at any moment 15’8”. It is extremely important that art be unjustifiable. (p. 321)

Interview with Barbaralee Diamonstein (1977)

BD: How do you achieve the immediacy in your work?

RR: By not making up your mind before you’re going to do it. It has to be immediate if you don’t know what you’re doing. And you take that chance and it’s very embarrassing. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you don’t You don’t have security.

BD: Do you plan your pieces?

RR: No, I have discipline. I work every day and I never know what I’m doing . . . . If you know something you have a responsibility. . . . I don’t think any honest artist sets out to make art. You love art. You live art. You are art. You do art. But you’re just doing something. You’re doing what no one can stop you from doing. And so, it doesn’t have to be art and that is your life. But you also can’t make life and so there’s something in between there because you flirt with the idea that it is art. The definition of art would have to be about how much use you can make of it. Because if you try to separate the two, art can be very self-conscious, a blinding fact. But life doesn’t really need it so it’s also another blinding fact. (p. 322)

Thinking about art writing and statements by artists makes me think of Barrett Watten – two memories – one that I think comes from a talk of his or a comment he made to a talk in I think it was Hills magazine amounting to something like “ but that’s just ‘art’, and the fifties, and Rauschenberg and all that bullshit” — anyone know the exact quote (I’m at work, can’t look it up). What was his beef with R., exactly? I mean, it’s not like Rauschenberg was one of those mawkish ab-ex soi-disant geniuses…

And the other memory was from a class of Barry’s – I guess – or maybe a conversation? Anyway… I remember him posing the question, “What do you do with a work of art?” and smugly, I responded, “you judge it.” And he said, “no, you use it” – which is precisely R.’s point, above, and a precept which I still carry with me (although I still admittedly do a fair bit of judging). At any rate, the artworks – or more precisely – the phenomena – that most interest me are those I can use in my own… for lack of a less pretentious word… practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s