Bob Rauschenberg

Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (1954)


I couldn't think of anything I might be able to add to the encomiums which have followed Monday's announcement of the death of Robert Rauschenberg. Then this morning I saw and read the NYTimes obituary in the print edition. While growing up, and even for many years later, I remember seeing pictures of a beautiful young man whose work was more than capable of shaking up a post-war art world already conditioned to, maybe even bored by change. the Times, like too many other media sources in the last few days, showed us only pictures of an older artist, and many photographs I've been seeing portrayed a Rauschenberg weakened and partially paralyzed by a stroke.

Although he remained handsome and productive all his life, it was in the early years of his career that he produced most of the innovations for which he is now known and revered. I thought that we should all be able to see now what the strong, vital artist who changed so much of the world we inhabit today looked like while the revolution was underway. He was once very young and almost painfully beautiful, but he was never old.

The photograph here is of the artist relaxing in a studio with Jasper Johns. It was taken probably in the late 50s, the period in which they lived together downtown in various lofts around Coenties Slip and Pearl Street (the neighborhood of my own first New York home 25 years later). It's interesting, although not surprising, that in his long obituary for Rauschenberg published in today's Times print edition Michael Kimmelman describes their personal ties in "genteel" terms more familiar to readers of fifty years ago than to us today:

The intimacy of their relationship over the next years, a consuming subject for later biographers and historians, coincided with the production by the two of them of some of the most groundbreaking works of postwar art.
For a little more candor, see Jonathan Katz.



"bobrauschenbergamerica" in tears

Paul Lee at Audiello

Lawrence Weiner at Pocket Utopia

UPDATE: Shortly after I did this post I found this wonderful early image on Newsday's site:

Robert Rauschenberg in his New York studio in 1958

[top image, a photograph by Rachel Rosenthal, from mettaartlove; added image from Newsday]