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May 16, 2008

Death of an Innovator

Robertrauschenberg Earlier this week, Robert Rauschenberg died. Though our paths crossed in various ways, I never met him. In an indirect way, though, he changed my life. It was at a lecture two years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Paoletti (of Wesleyan College) that I started thinking about putting art into one of my lectures. Paoletti made the work seem so real and alive that I was captivated, and that inspiration still colors what I do. 

For those who don't know his work, Rauschenberg created painting and sculpture, but is best know for his "combines," which were a mix of the two, usually incorporating things that he found on the street or elsewhere. He actually built real life right into the art, if you think about it. His work is dense with images; there is rarely anything simple about it. For example, in the combine pictured below (one of his most famous), there is a tire, a lot of images pasted onto the platform, and a farm animal. You can glance at it and think it is a lark, but if you look at it closely, at the images there, it pulls you in.  It is like a great lecture-- there are some big, obvious ideas, but also intricacies and subtleties, should you choose to see them.

When true artists die, they leave a lot of themselves behind. It is a strange but important kind of immortality, this immortality of ideas.

-- Mark Osler

May 16, 2008 | Permalink


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