Robert Rauschenberg, Rabbit Chow, 1977. Screenprint and collage on paper, with plastic twine, 48 x 36 1/4 inches. From an edition of 100, published by Styria Studio, New York. Collection of Rutgers University – Newark.
This post is part of a series marking the 40th anniversary of Paul Robeson Galleries. We are celebrating the artists who we have had the pleasure of working with over the last four decades, highlighting those artists who have inspired, provoked, challenged, and enriched our lives.
Robert Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on October 22, 1925, as Milton Rauschenberg. He studied pharmacology at the University of Texas, Austin. Subsequently, he was drafted into the United States Navy, where Rauschenberg served as a neuropsychiatric technician. In 1947, he enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute and traveled to Paris to further his education at the Academie Julian the following year.
Later in his career, he returned to the United States and collaborated with both John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Rauschenberg was offered his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York from 1941 to 1951. By the end of 1970, he established a permanent residence and studio.
In his lifetime, Rauschenberg traveled and exhibited internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art gave him a retrospective in 1976, filling the museum. In 1991, over 125 works were displayed at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. In 1988, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum hosted the most extensive retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work to this date.
Rauschenberg continued to work despite significant medical problems, including a broken hip. In 2002, he suffered from a stroke that paralyzed his right side of his body, which caused him to learn how to work with his left hand. He worked until he died in 2008.
About the Art
Rauschenberg worked in ranges of mediums, including sculpture, prints, paintings, photography, and performance. He expanded the horizons of the artworld away from abstract expressionism and became an artist who, in his own words, “work[ed] in the gap between art and life.” Rauschenberg’s Chow Bags is a portfolio consisting of six screenprints in graphite and plastic thread, with a domesticated animal making an appearance in each. He created actual bags from animal feed. His work has a profound effect on the artists that came after him and will follow to this day.
“You can’t make either life or art, you have to work in the hole in between, which is undefined. That’s what makes the adventure of painting.” – Robert Rauschenberg