Born Milton Rauschenberg in Port Arthur, Texas, 22 October 1925. Married Susan Weil, 1950 (divorced, 1952); one son. Studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, 1946-47, Academie Julian, Paris, 1947, and under Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, 1948-50; artist and teacher in New York since 1950: taught at Black Mountain College, 1952 (participated in first "happening," with John Cage and others); also associated with Merce Cunningham Dance Company as stage and costume designer (Tliree Epitaphs, 1956, The Tower, 1957, Images and Reflections, 1958, Antic Meet, 1958, Summerspace , 1958, Tracer, 1962, Field Dances, 1963, Winterbranch, 1964, etc.). Address: c/o Knoedler Gallery, 19 East 70th Street, New York, New York 10021, U.S.A.
As one of the most resourceful innovators in postwar American art. Robert Rauschenberg changed the look of painting, blurred the boundaries between the visual and the performing arts, and engaged in ambitious if sometimes problematic sculptural and theatrical collaborations with engineers. His controversial "combine" paintings of the 1950's—works that offer three-dimensional objects as well as flat images— significantly expanded the range of available art materials by offering such unconventional ingredients as stuffed birds, ladders, electric fans, clocks, and radios. Perceived in the late 1950's as a wayward, neo-Dadaist prankster in the secondgeneration school of Abstract expressionism, he was viewed in the early 1960s as a prophet of Pop art. Being a maverick and a one-man school of his own. suspicious of all formalist Utopias.
Rauschenberg found himself at odds both with the Abstract Expressionists, who were too insular and introverted for his taste, and the Pop artists, who impressed him as too imitative and blatantly obvious Stylistically. Rauschenberg s art has touched many bases, from proto-Minimalist all-white and all-black abstractions made in the early 1950's to silkscreened paintings and electronic sculptures that invite spectator "participation" in the 1960's to freewheeling assemblages of highway and street signs in the 1980's.
In addition to his combine paintings and junk sculptures, Rauschenberg developed an original form of draftmanship, deriving "found" images from newspapers and magazines and transferring them to drawing paper through an unorthodox technique: he moistened the printed illustrations with a solvent (turpentine or cigarette-lighter fluid), placed the damp side against his drawing paper, then rubbed a pencil or empty ballpoint pen on the reverse of the image, thereby transferring it to the paper in the form of hatched pencil strokes. The technique enabled him to "collage" heterogeneous images from various sources and yield a unified, homogeneous surface. His most important "transfer drawings" are a sequence of 34 illustrations, to which he added passages of spontaneous drawing in pencil and wash, for Dante's Inferno (1959-60).
Almost from the beginning, Rauschenberg demonstrated a compositional preference for unrelated and scattered readymade images, deployed in ways that provoke viewers into pondering their juxtapositions. In 1962 he began silkscreening photographic images onto his canvases; like the earlier transfer drawings, the silkscreen technique facilitated his use of ready-made images, which he now combined with luscious, handpainted passages of amorphous abstraction. This series included many spectacular paintings, such as the 32-foot-wide Barge (1963) with its arresting kaleidoscope of photographic images reflecting the American scene.
Rauschenberg prefers collaborative ventures to solitary work in the studio, which helps account for his prolific output as a printmaker. His collaborative printmaking projects have taken him to Ambert, France, where he produced a series of molded-paper works, to Ahmedabad, India, where he made sculptural as well as two-dimensional works, and to Jing Xian in the People's Republic of China, where he turned out exquisite paperworks incorporating cutouts from posters and embroidered silk. Many of his prints are notable for their ambitious large scale: Currents (1970) is 54 feet long. In the mid- 1 960 's, Rauschenberg collaborated with engineer Billy Kluver to devise Oracle (1965), a quintet of wheeled junk sculptures equipped with radios that produces a "collage of sound." With Kluver, he also founded Experiments in Art and Technology, Inc. (E.A.T.), an organization intended to foster collaborations between artists and scientists. Since the mid- 1 980 's, Rauschenberg has concentrated much of his energy on the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (R.O.C.I.), a privately funded program to promote world peace by touring a traveling show of his work to more than 20 nations and making collaborative artworks with regional artists and artisans in many of those countries.