Throw Them in the River

Robert Rauschenberg Untitled 1963

I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with influence because I think that one can use another man’s art as material either literally or just implying that they’re doing that, without it representing a lack of a point of view. But I also like seeing people using materials that one is not accustomed to seeing in art because I think that has a particular value. New materials have fresh associations of physical properties and qualities that have built into them the possibility of forcing you or helping you do something else. I think it’s more difficult to constantly be experimenting with paint over a period of many, many years. Like Ad Reinhardt said to me one day, and I took it as a compliment until he had finished his remark. He said, “I saw your show.” I think it was the Egan show. He said, “I saw your exhibition.” He said, “Those are very good pictures.” And I said, “Thank you:” And he said, “Yes, it’s too bad.” He said, “Somehow we just can’t help but get better.” And I couldn’t agree with him more.” [Robert Rauschenberg in conversation with Dorothy Seckler]

Robert Rauschenberg Transom 1963

And—And she [Betty Parsons] says, in her gravel voice, “Well, I look at new works on Tuesday. And this isn’t Tuesday.” So I was busy leaving; she said, “OK, put ’em down here, and—and—and I’ll look.” And I was so nervous by then that—that—I mean, she was—she was a real priestess. I mean, you know, she’s sort of a holy Tallulah Bankhead or something. And—and—and a dash and [sic] Tabasco by—by Marlene Dietrich. And so—She was terrifying. And so I was leaving, and she said, “OK, bring ’em back here.” And—and—and I was so nervous by then, that I just— I couldn’t show them fast enough. I just wanted to get—I thought, This is a mistake, this is a mistake. And you know, I just wanna get outta there. And so I put one up and then I’d reach around and get another one, take that one down. She said, “Wait a minute! I can’t see that way.” And so—And then by the time I left—this is that—this—in—that show, became that show—that she was saying, “Well, I can’t give you a show until May.” I said, “I didn’t ask for a show.” [laughs] But—OK. Let me—let—Should I just go on…? [Transcript of Bob speaking with David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis]

Robert Rauschenberg Bed 1955

“These followed a notorious series of white unpainted canvases (“that was something I wanted to see”) and all-black pictures in which the paint was applied over a surface of torn newspapers. None were sold; very few of the black and white paintings still exist. Nor do the boxes and objects that were shown in Florence in 1953; an Italian reviewer suggested that the artist throw them in the river—and Rauschenberg took his advice. In his next group of paintings he experimented with red. “White began to connote some form purity, which it had never meant to me, and black some negative way of dealing with painting. I picked what was the most difficult color for me at that time to work with—the one I considered for me the most aggressive.” He began to use a wider variety of objects in his collages. In 1955 he painted the controversial Bed which was censored out of the Spoleto Festival. “I didn’t have any money to buy canvas, and I wanted to paint. I was looking around for something to paint on. I wasn’t using the quilt, so I put it on a stretcher. It looked stranger without a pillow, so I added the pillow. It wasn’t a preconceived idea.” [Rauschenberg Paints a Picture]

Henri values your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.