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Milton Ernst Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008)

 

"I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out of the real world." - Robert Rauschenberg

 

Robert Rauschenberg was an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950's transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Rauschenberg is perhaps most famous for his "Combines" of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. While the Combines are both painting and sculpture, Rauschenberg also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance.

Rauschenberg picked up trash and found objects that interested him on the streets of New York City and brought these back to his studio where they could become integrated into his work. He claimed he "wanted something other than what I could make myself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and the generosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn't a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing. 

In a famously cited incident of 1953, Rauschenberg erased a drawing by de Kooning, which he obtained from his colleague for the express purpose of erasing it as an artistic statement. The result is titled Erased de Kooning.  In 1964 Rauschenberg was the first American artist to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale (Mark Tobey and James Whistler had previously won the Painting Prize). After that time, he enjoyed a rare degree of institutional support. Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida until his death on May 12, 2008, from heart failure.