Sunday, June 15, 2008

Readings on Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries, by Robert S. Mattison, 2003.

Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, by Calvin Tomkins, updated edition, 2005.
Obviously, Robert Rauschenberg's life and artwork cannot be summed up by me in one blog post. There are many avenues of his work I didn't even touch on, such as his performance art pieces, and his work as set designer for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. There are several books I would recommend for further investigation about this wonderful and fascinating artist.

Calvin Tomkins's Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, is a great book that covers Rauschenberg's life and career up to the mid-60's. (Merce Cunningham comes of as a major jerk in this book, he seems petty and annoyed when Rauschenberg become successful.) Originally published in 1981, it was updated in 2005 with a chapter Tomkins wrote for a New Yorker article.

Leo Steinberg's Encounters with Rauschenberg is a good little book, showing how one wary art critic (Steinberg) eventually became a fervent supporter of Rauschenberg's work.

Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries, by Robert S. Mattison, is a good, well-illustrated book. I haven't read the entire book, but it's good.

Robert Rauschenberg: October Files, edited by Brandon Joseph, is a good compendium of important articles about Rauschenberg's work.

Robert Rauschenberg, by Sam Hunter, though unimaginatively titled, is a solid work featuring reproductions of more than 100 Rauschenberg works. It includes many later works, although Hunter, like most other authors, concentrates in the text on the 1950's and 60's. Hopefully soon someone will write more about Rauschenberg's post-1964 work.

Rauschenberg is also sadly lacking in entry-level, ie, cheap, art books about him. For some reason, he was not included in the Abbeville Modern Masters series, although they did include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. It's like, okay, there's someone missing among this group of artists...he has also never had a Taschen book written about him. Taschen has a great series of cheap books about the canonical "great artists," and they are a good introduction and overview of an artist's life and work. There are books covering just about every major painter, ever, from Leonardo, Caravaggio, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, to Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. Guess who still doesn't have a Taschen book? Robert Rauschenberg. Anyway, if I whetted your appetite for more Rauschenberg, check out some of these books. If you're interested in more images of Rauschenberg's work, check out the Sam Hunter book, if you're interested in more about his life, check out the Calvin Tomkins book.

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