Rauschenberg at the Tate Modern


A retrospect of the American artist Rauschenberg at the Tate is in its last few weeks. He is well known internationally for experimenting in various types of art forms from screen print, painting, sculpture, collage, performance, assemblage, photography.

He had clear modernist influences of Dada; people like Jospeh Albers, Schwitters in his early work are obvious like ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’, ‘White Painting’, ‘Untitled (double Rauchenberg) a monoprint’. This developed over time into something that showed the curiosity of experimentation working with all manner of detritus which he collected to produce assemblage, collage.

In the period of the 1950s America like the UK being a gay person was very difficult. In the UK there were laws specifically for the activity of gay relationships which could lead to chemical castration or a jail sentence. Like UK in America gay people built up a repertoire of signals and signs to avoid detection by the justice system. Rauchenberg is said by some scholars to have used these devices within his work to send messages but to explore and make political statements about the system he lived.

Although the show was interesting I kind of expected a lot more from the art Rauchenberg produced. He was a keen on combining found objects, transferring, and printing on to canvas but in some ways the art did not go beyond that they were like sketches, drawings the artist made but there was no thoughtful interaction after that to push those things further into a more refined ideas, concepts.

Rauchenberg openly accepted the aesthetic value of the objects as they were found and saw little need to change them as if they had value of their own as an object. This is very much a take on Dada. Although the reasoning of Dada was different it worked the idea of the everyday objects as anti-art rather than the concept of raising the everyday object with low aesthetic value and then give them artistic value and make them into fine art objects as high art. Dada, the everyday object was an instrument to attack the fine arts to use the absurd to argue that art did not matter in the context of society controlled by the elite.

What Rauchenberg and others like him did was to raise the everyday object or the usual everyday task considered to be low in value into more than objects of simple functional use to post modernist utopian ideas. Whether this was deliberate or not it brought about the idea of brit art and graphic art to be corporate and more importantly elitist.  The world of art is now in control of the corporate, banks, galleries, sales, and investment fund manager’s etc all whom control a market of art that has no boundaries or regulations. We now find art in a place where the critics of art only toe the line whether they like or agree if it can be called art or not.

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