The Museum of Modern Art is offering a wide-scale exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s art in its show titled “Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends” (May 21-Sept. 17, 2017). It is a well-conceived exhibition that also contains works by artists with whom Rauschenberg (1925-2008) associated, and accordingly it reflects some of the influences that proved important. But overall, this is a prime opportunity to visit Rauschenberg’s creativity and contemplate his place in the world of modern art.
The exhibition was organized in association with Tate Modern in London and features some 250 works. Some of the art is more intimate, some lavish, some especially inventive. The thrust explores Rauschenberg’s avant-garde mix of different materials and mediums, as well as his involvement with dance and performance.
Throughout there are excellent explanations of different phases of his life, for example when he was close to Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly. There was also Susan Weil, to whom he was married. His broadened application of his art integrated with other art forms included working with Trisha Brown, John Cage and Merce Cunningham and being sought to do set and costume designs for live performances.
One striking work is the depiction of a taxidermied goat emerging from within an auto tire. The artist’s social conscience is reflected in his “Signs,” featuring Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy in a grouping that reflects their historical period. A popular stop along the way through the collection is a huge pool of bubbling mud, with a warning of not to stand too close, lest you get splattered.
There are videos that reflect his contributions to Trisha Brown’s dance events. One can find startling works of color as well as his white paintings. Whether or not one appreciates Rauschenberg’s adventurism into multi-use of objects during his career, this is a show that demonstrates his concepts and artistic achievement, as well as an occasion to study the relationship between his work and others. Setting Rauschenberg among friends is a nifty idea that helps reveal inspirations that flourished during interlocking careers. At the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Posted May 21, 2017.