Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) was a prolific, curious artist, who experimented widely in every medium, drew inspiration from everyday life, and altered the history of art. He also advocated for peace and dialogue among nations and peoples, as well as protection of the environment and animals. Rauschenberg travelled throughout the world, and in the 1980s he launched exhibitions in eleven countries, including the first one-person show by an American since 1945 in the former Soviet Union and in China. Fostering the role of art in awakening vision and encouraging compassionate communication and collaboration, Rauschenberg commented in a 1984 statement at the United Nations:
[A] one-to-one contact through art contains potent peaceful powers. . . . Art is educating, provocative, and enlightening even when first not understood . . . creative confusion stimulates curiosity and growth, leading to trust and tolerance. . . . It was not until I realized that it is the celebration of the differences between things that I became an artist who could see.
Honoring his fundamental aims, Rauschenberg: Collecting & Connecting features selections spanning six decades from the artist’s personal collection of his own work, now in the trust of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, in dialogue with art from the Nasher Museum’s collection. Special highlights from the museum’s collection include works by San Francisco artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner, and by Soviet nonconformist and conceptual artists of the 1980s and 1990s.
The two facing chairs atop Rauschenberg’s sculpture The Ancient Incident (1981) signify the critical role he accorded exchange, and are a metaphor for the conversations staged among the works. Rauschenberg: Collecting & Connecting cultivates what Rauschenberg cherished most: the act of looking long and thinking hard in order to bring new eyes to art and to life.
August 28, 2014–January 11, 2015