Published: May 20, 2008
(AP) †Artist Robert Rauschenberg, whose use of odd and everyday articles earned him regard as a pioneer in Pop art but whose talents spanned the worlds of painting, sculpture and dance, has died, his gallery representative said. He was 82.
Rauschenberg died May 12, said Jennifer Joy, his representative at PaceWildenstein.
Rauschenberg, who first gained fame in the 1950s, did not mine popular culture wholesale as Andy Warhol (Campbell’s Soup cans) and Roy Lichtenstein (comic books) did. But his “combines,” incongruous combinations of three-dimensional objects and paint, shared Pop’s blurring of art and objects from modern life.
He also responded to his Pop colleagues and began incorporating up-to-the-minute photographed images in his works in the 1960s, including, memorably, pictures of John F. Kennedy.
Among his most famous combines was “Bed,” created when he woke up in the mood to paint but had no money for a canvas. His solution was to take the quilt off his bed and use paint, toothpaste and fingernail polish for his creation.
But not to be limited by paint, Rauschenberg was a sculptor and choreographer and even won a 1984 Grammy Award for best album package for the Talking Heads album Speaking in Tongues.
“I’m curious,” he said in 1997 in one of the few interviews he granted in later years. “It’s very rewarding. I’m still discovering things every day.”
Rauschenberg’s more than 50 years in art produced such a varied and prolific collection that it consumed both uptown and downtown locations during a 1998 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes, in his book American Visions, called Rauschenberg “a protean genius who showed America that all of life could be open to art. …Rauschenberg didn’t give a fig for consistency, or curating his reputation; his taste was always facile, omnivorous, and hit-or-miss, yet he had a bigness of soul and a richness of temperament that recalled Walt Whitman.”