Rauschenberg: Art and Life

Mary Lynn Kotz, Author ABRAMS $70 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5588-2
An energetic Texan from a traditional Southern upbringing, Robert Rauschenberg wanted to be a minister but became an artist instead. His rags-to-riches story--like his art--is quintessentially American. But this biography of the painter, which was originally published in 1990 and has now been revised and expanded, is more descriptive than analytical. Focusing on the inspiration and fabrication of Rauschenberg's works rather than on critical interpretation, Kotz's homage glosses over sources of conflict or scandal, such as Rauschenberg's failed first marriage and his falling-outs with Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham, two early and important friends and collaborators. (A new chapter does, however, briefly mention Rauschenberg's problems with alcohol and his fluctuating sexuality.) Instead, the biography cultivates a kind of intimacy with the artist. ""Rauschenberg enjoys the moment,"" Kotz writes. ""His days are filled with merriment of one kind or another. But he is a serious man, who perceives suffering and injustice as personal attacks ... He is so gentle, caring, brilliant, and funny that his friends and staff feel for the tragic nature of his obsession ... For Rauschenberg, there is such joy in work that it supersedes everything else."" Kotz is at her best when describing Rauschenberg at work in his studio, and she does systematically document Rauschenberg's innovations in painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, printmaking, collage and silkscreen printing, as well as the interactions of dance, theater, music, poetry and technology in his work and the logistics of his collaborative projects, including the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Exchange (ROCI), which attempts to ""foster a dialogue with other nations through the language of art."" But by far the best part of the volume is its gorgeous reproductions of more than 200 of Rauschenberg's 6,000-plus works: the best account of Rauschenberg's output yet. 112 color and 128 b&w illustrations.
Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 319 pages - 978-0-8109-3752-9
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