robert rauschenberg at mam
Post #487 • March 7, 2005, 7:03 AM • 46 Comments
Robert Rauschenberg's work has never bowled me over. His two-dimensional pieces, deprived of the raunchiness that elivens his early so-called combines, doesn't set up for me formally or convey any more import than average television programming. Now wheelchair-bound after a series of health crises, he has nevertheless directed the creation of new images that the Miami Art Museum has put up in its New Works space.
Rauschenberg is a longtime Florida resident, having lived in Captiva since the '70s. Now that his health has constrained his travels, his work has begun to reflect distinctively local input: gators, punchy shadows, pink and green. His move to water-based media - inspired by safety and environmental concerns - forced his palette into a gentler range of intensity than his previous work using kerosene transfers and full-strength colors. This makes his recent work pleasanter to look at, but the oomph has gone out of them as well.
Rauschenberg has never been a great composer or colorist, and I also doubt that his work has all that much to say. MAM Curator Peter Boswell's 1500-word brochure essay about him seems to back this up: he devotes about half of it to technical processes. MAM hardly ever does this (excepting the recent Chuck Close show), and when I read it, my first thought was, Oh, man, Peter got screwed on this one. Frankly, there isn't much else to talk about - these are okay collage-based images of the artist's locale. Mostly they evince fatigue. His foreground elements come off as lazy, and some of the empty spaces between them are as inert as a flat EKG reading. They're sort of fun, but they're astonishingly light and nonfunctional for someone who is revered as a central figure of modern art.