Robert Rauschenberg

Born 1929, Port Arthur, Texas
Died 2008, Captiva, Florida

Tabernacle Fuss

(from the series Urban Bourbons)


Acrylic paint and silkscreen on enameled aluminum panels

If one looks at Rauschenberg’s work chronologically, distinct series are apparent where the types and usage of materials may drastically change.  Rauschenberg typically sets each series apart with a unique name.  Work titles are often whimsical and may play on words and rhyme.  Sometimes they describe an element of a given work; sometimes they bear no apparent relation.  Each work in the Hess Art Collection is an example from a distinct Rauschenberg series, i.e., The Combines; Early Egyptian, Gluts; The Urban Bourbons and Ground Rules.

Donald Hess was drawn to Rauschenberg “because of his tremendous integrity as an artist.”  Hess continues, “His work exudes the passion Rauschenberg felt for making art and discovering new modes of expression.  Furthermore, he related to his incessant search for a challenge and was amazed by his innate ability to arrange ordinary objects in a way that looks so effortless and poetic. Rauschenberg was a master at making the complicated simple.”

Empire I

(from the Combines series)


Wood, bicycle wheel, chain, bricks, and metal.

Rauschenberg’s artistic diversity is manifest in his seemingly bottomless reservoir of ideas and materials. His résumé is equally as multifarious: He studied pharmacy, worked as a naval neuro-psychiatric technician, dressed windows for Bonwitt Teller and Tiffany’s, designed stage sets, and choreographed dance performances.  Moreover, he established and funded the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI) an organization that pursues artistic discourse between disparate cultures, i.e., countries under dictatorships.  He held honorary doctorates in art from New York University, Grinnell College & the University of South Florida.

His explorative work is in a constant state of evolution; as Rauschenberg once explained: “if I’m doing anything too familiar it aggravates me”.  He is once admitted to being obsessed with the past and the recycling of its cast aside and forgotten refuse.   In his view, “All material has its own history” and by using the combined scars of use and disuse in an aesthetic context he imbued these images and objects with a heightened existence, a sort of visual poetry.  His deftly composed amalgams contextually arrange parts of the past as post-modern monuments to resurrected trash.  In so doing he ennobles the ignoble and presents us with an aggrandized look at our waste. Plainly put, what society contemns as garbage, Rauschenberg reveres and recycles.

 Rome Wall


Ceiling and Light Bulb




Gelatin silver prints


(from the Ground Rules series)


Lithograph on paper.  Edition 12/44

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