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‘BOB! A Tribute to Robert Rauschenberg opens at Bradbury Gallery March 12

March 5, 2009 -- In May of 2008, one of America’s best-known artists, Robert Rauschenberg, died. Arkansas State University-Jonesboro's Bradbury Gallery, located in Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Drive, Jonesboro, will host an exhibition that is a tribute to this significant American artist. “BOB! A Tribute to Robert Rauschenberg” opens on Thursday, March 12, at 5 p.m. with a reception. Both the reception and the exhibition are free and open to the public. The exhibition runs through Friday, April 17.

Milton Ernest Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas on October 22, 1925. He changed his name from Milton to Bob, ultimately becoming known by the more formal Robert.

He studied art  in several venues--at the Kansas City Art Institute, briefly and informally in Paris after World War II, and in the late 1940s at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. It was at Black Mountain that he met his wife, Susan Weil, and his longtime friend, musician John Cage. Together, they helped to begin what ultimately became an artistic revolution.

Looking for a vibrant art scene, Rauschenberg moved to New York in the 1950s, where his interest in popular culture and his dismissal of the solemnity of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. Much like MarcelRobert Rauschenberg's "Pegasits," ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works) 1990, is what Rauschenberg labeled a "combine," using acrylic, fire wax, and a chair on stainless steel. This assemblage will be on display at ASU's Bradbury Gallery beginning Thursday, March 12, at 5 p.m. Duchamp and an earlier generation of artists, he began to work with non-traditional materials that were readily available to him. From house paint to found objects, he covered his canvases creating what he termed “combines.” This way of working, more commonly known as assemblage, is a three-dimensional process, which joins objects to a canvas or structure, much like the two-dimensional process of collage. This style of work brought him prominence as an artist, and throughout his lifetime, it remained his signature.

In the 1960s, as Pop Art began to emerge, he less frequently worked in a purely three-dimensional manner. He collaged onto canvas cut-outs from magazines, overlaid by Robert Rauschenberg's photographic print, "Study for a Chinese Summerhall (Bottles), 1983" will be on display at ASU's Bradbury Gallery on Thursday, March 12, at 5 prints and paint. These collages often used politically charged images or faces, creating a commentary about society and popular culture.

In the 1970s and 1980s, his use of two-dimensional collage led him to printmaking and photography. In 1985, he began a six-year travelling exhibition called the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange, or ROCI, dedicated to world peace and cultural awareness through collaborative art-making. His self-financed, evolving exhibition brought  him to 22 countries including Mexico, Malaysia, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Japan, China, Tibet, Venezuela, Chile, and the U.S., culminating in an exhibition at  the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Several works from the ROCI series are included in the Bradbury Gallery exhibition.

Other Rauschenberg works included in the exhibition are from the Chow Bag series. Much like the ROCI series, this set of collaged silk-screens conveys his concern about society, human rights, and social injustice.

In order to create a context in which the viewer can better understand Rauschenberg’s place in the art world, works by several of his contemporaries -- Vito Acconci, Chuck Close, Jim Dine, Robert Mapplethorpe, and James Rosenquist -- are also included in the exhibition.

Inspired by the work that Rauschenberg was doing, Jim Dine moved to New York in the 1950s, where he too began to work in assemblage. Dine, Rosenquist, Rauschenberg, and others were interested in familiar imagery, slogans, and images found in mass media. Much like the earlier Dada movement, these “Pop” artists incorporated found objects into their work.  Any image or object from popular culture was fair game as artistic material for these artists.

To some degree, Rauschenberg and Mapplethorpe were both influenced by Andy Warhol. Mapplethorpe was also interested in photographic imagery of contemporary culture, and he, too, incorporated clippings from magazines and books in his early work. This interest led him to photography, but originally he used his photos as a collage element in his paintings rather than as works of art in and of themselves. The transformation to photography was a slow process, eventually becoming his sole means of art making.

Rauschenberg’s talents extended far beyond painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking.  He was a performance artist; acted as a sort of ambassador for world peace and social awareness with his ROCI program; greatly influenced and inspired numerous artists; and won a Grammy for the cover of Speaking in Tongues, an album by the group Talking Heads. Rauschenberg died at his home in Captiva, Florida, at the age of 82, with his place in art history firmly established.

The works of art included in this exhibition are selections from the Tennessee State Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, and the ASU Permanent Collection of Art.

Bradbury Gallery hours are 12 noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday. The Bradbury Gallery is closed on Mondays. For additional information, contact Les Christensen, director of  the Bradbury Gallery, at (870) 972-2567, or by e-mail at


Images from top:
Robert Rauschenberg
Pegasits / ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works) 1990
acrylic, fire wax, chair on stainless steel                   
72.75 x 96.75 x 17.5 inches
courtesy of The Tennessee State Museum

Robert Rauschenberg
Study for a Chinese Summerhall (Bottles), 1983
photographic print
26.375 x 26.5 inches
courtesy of The Tennessee State Museum

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