Robert Rauschenberg, Erased De Kooning Drawing (1953). Traces of ink and crayon on paper, mat, label, and gilded frame with mount and hand-lettered ink by Jasper Johns on frame, 64.14 x 55.25. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California.
"The simultaneous unmaking of one work and the creation of another" - Robert Rauschenberg
I have been waiting a long time to write about this work because it is one of my favorites, but I could not figure out a way to adequately explain the history of the work and how it came to be while still giving the sense of its creation. However, I just found this clip on YouTube (above) of Rauschenberg explaining the work himself! I hope you will watch the clip to understand the work while I give blog today only about how the work effects me and why I have loved it for so long.
Rauschenberg has been a favorite of mine for a long time but it was only recently when I have come to understand more about art and the progression of the modern movements that his true importance and brilliance has become evident. Here, while the works drew me in, the artist's own progression is what kept me interested. Rauschenberg, working in New York, challenged viewers to interact with his works in a way that the Abstract Expressionists did not. By creating collages that used everyday material to creating monochrome white paintings that made the viewer's shadow the art work, his work is an experience that is on par with his frequent collaborator John Cage's music. A wonderful quote by Cage, when remarking on the praise his silent composition was eliciting, is:
"To Whom It May Concern:
The white paintings came first;
my silent piece came later."
Rauschenberg was interested in the creation and collaboration of art that could move and challenge an audience in its inception and completion. The erased de Kooning Drawing is an example of how he needed always to look outside what was being done at the time and use a new approach to evoke the feelings he felt needed to be expressed. As with other artists of the time his sometimes audacious tactics did not always please the general public or art world critics, but the work's continuing fame and importance proves just how necessary this idea was to the movements and the generational feeling in New York during the 1950's. The concept of this work and the idea of iconoclasm (the destruction of images) are often debated and discussed but as Rauschenberg explains, he did not need to destory de Kooning's art, but rather he wanted to make art out of art. By erasing a piece that would have been considered high art he was attempting to show how subtraction could also create something as important or expressive.
I hope you have listened to Rauschenberg's own words on the subject because it is his interpretation and the story of its inception that makes this work so absolutely fantastic.
Here is also a wonderful interactive site from the SFMoMA about the work and it will give you all the details and another video of Rauschenberg speaking about it.
Posted by Lydia at 7:43 PM