Robert Rauschenberg: Runts
Gallery Faurschou Copenhagen
03 August – 28 August 2010
This spring FAURSCHOU CPH is showing a group of beautiful collages by Robert Rauschenberg from the last series he made before his death in 2008. “Runts” is the name of this series from 2007, and as the title humorously suggests, it is in a rather smaller format than one normally sees from Rauschenberg.
Archive of pictures
Despite a stroke that made Robert Rauschenberg’s working process difficult in his last few years, he continued working undaunted up to the end. Throughout a long life with photography he had established a rich archive of pictures that he used for his last, highly personal collages, “Scenarios” and “Runts”.
Master of composition
“Runts” is characterized by simple compositions of photographs against a light background. Several of the pictures are from Florida, where he lived. There are blue skies and sun, an exotic bird, agaves and other tropical plants, beach volleyballs, etc. There are also pictures from other parts of the world that he had visited and was fond of – and as always in Rauschenberg’s works the fine and beautiful is equally to be found in pictures of far more prosaic things such as a ramshackle shed, a cable drum, a stack of old roof tiles, as well as other images from construction sites and all sorts of “non-places”.
Compositionally “Runts” maintains a fine balance by using themes that tie the whole picture together – for example the colour red, which is seen on a lifebuoy, a ladder, an advertising poster and the roof of an ice-cream stall. Repetitions, reflections and displacements of pictorial motifs give the works an incredibly impressive visual rhythm and underscore the tight composition of the material, which also balances finely with the blank, light surface.
Pioneer and virtuoso
After working with transferring photography to various types of surfaces for 50 years, Rauschenberg was technically a virtuoso. He had always experimented and renewed his working method – from the early pioneering work in the sixties with his solvent transfers of photographs to paper and to canvas as silk-screen prints, then later on to metal, plexiglass and wood; and in recent years he explored a variety of new synthetic materials such as polylaminate, which he mounted on aluminium panels. And not least, he experimented with different kinds of colouring – everything from pencil, ink, water-colour, gouache, oil paint to acrylic and especially various vegetable pigments – which mediated the initial photography to create his own unmistakable, powerfully aesthetic idiom.
Whether it is a collage of scrap metal, like his wonderful “Gluts”; his silk-screens paintings, or his vegetable dyes on polylaminate that almost recall old fresco paintings; you are never in any doubt that you are looking at a Rauschenberg.
What always strikes you in Rauschenberg’s works is not only his technical preci¬sion and skill, but more specifically the tactile surface and the aesthetic balance of his compositions. He is unsurpassed in colour, composition, visual rhythm; and an aesthetic genius when it comes to the sensual surface and materiality of the work.
View of reality
When Rauschenberg began transferring photographs in the early 1960s, it was mainly from the insistent reality of the mass media – TV, newspapers and maga¬zines – that he drew his pictorial motifs: the Moon Landing, the American Eagle, J.F. Kennedy etc.
In more recent years his own photographs have formed the basis for his works, and Rauschenberg has thus replaced the eyes of the mass media with his own. He does not compose narratives or come to conclusions for us. As we can see in his “Runts” it is quite up to ourselves and our own associations how we make our way into Rauschenberg’s world. What a congenial guide he is!
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