Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboard & Related Pieces

Location: The Menil Collection
Duration: February 23 – May 13, 2007
My Rating: 2 Fists Up!

Rauschenberg has been a major influence of mine for many years but this is the first time I’ve seen an entire exhibit of his in one place. This man is a native Texan and is now very old. I expect many more retrospectives in the near future but what’s unique about this collection is that most people didn’t even know he created this series of work. It was done back in the 70’s and immediately acquired by a wealthy European family. As far as I know this is the first time they’ve exhibited them as a whole since being purchased back then.

I know what you’re thinking… “What’s so great about boxes on walls.” I can’t really say why it’s so great beyond the fact that it sprouted hundreds of new ideas in my head while viewing them. They’re minimalism and distressed beauty sprawled out across plywood had a profound effect on me. They’re very inspirational. It has an Andy Warhol type of feel to it. I say that because he’s getting the viewer to recognize the beauty in everyday objects we typically neglect.

If you’re at all interested in modern or pop art I would suggest checking it out before it closes in May.

I’ll extend this post with information about the show direct from the Menil website, which you can obtain hours and directions at.

By the time Robert Rauschenberg completed the first of his Cardboards in 1971, he had already been breaking ground as an artist for twenty years. He first gained international acclaim in 1958 when he exhibited twenty of his Combines at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City.
The Cardboards present a continuation of the found object tradition and the exploration of the boundaries between painting and sculpture that the Combines began. The artist’s approach here, however, was radically transformed. Instead of using the palette of refuse provided by the city, Rauschenberg turned his attention to the materials at hand in the studio: where the Combines were inclusive of any and all material, here he confined himself to discarded cardboard boxes. Rauschenberg tore, flattened, bent, and cut the boxes that constitute this series; however, he resisted otherwise embellishing their surfaces. Thus, the stains, tears, dents, and marks that enliven the compositions result from, and attest to, the history of the objects themselves. He managed in this series to blend the inferior with the precious, to bring to the surface the hidden “cultural” qualities of this ordinary material by transforming it into great art.
With the Cardboards series completed, Rauschenberg proceeded to produce a number of other series that developed the original concept in different ways. Working with the printers at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, Rauschenberg produced Cardbirds (1971-1972), a series of faux cardboard box constructions using silkscreen on cardboard. Still later he collaborated with Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida to create the series Tampa Clay Pieces (1972-1973). In both of these editions, the look of the ordinary cardboard boxes belies the sophisticated techniques developed by the artist and the printmakers to create them.
In the Venetians series (1972-1973), Rauschenberg revisited the practice of working with materials in their found state. The simple assemblages are poetic impressions of Venice, a city whose decaying beauty struck a cord with Rauschenberg’s own aesthetic.
Despite Rauschenberg’s fame there are still important aspects and periods of his work that are practically unknown, even to specialists. For this reason, The Menil Collection decided to organize “Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces.”

2 Comments so far

  1. katya (unregistered) on April 11th, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

    I love seeing others appreciate the beauty in the everyday. Thanks for the heads up – will definitely make it to see this exhibit.

    nice rating system by the way :)

  2. nord (unregistered) on April 19th, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

    I took my mom to the Menil when she was in town. I thought that, growing up in Grenwich Village in the late 60’s, she would have appreciated this.

    Quite the contrary. She refused to even go into the exhibit. Alas.

    I, on the other hand, thought it was rad.

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