Robert Rauschenberg died Monday at the age of 82. He was best known as a visual artist, and within that area he worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage art, sculpture, papermaking, photography, and printmaking. But along with John Cage and Merce Cunningham, with whom he was a frequent collaborator early in his career, he was the impetus behind a revolution in the ways of thinking about and creating art of all stripes in the wake of post-war modernism. Like Cage, he reveled in the beauty of the everyday, and famously incorporated mundane found objects in his work. In his New York Times obituary, he is reported as having said, â€œI really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly, because theyâ€™re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.â€ In the way that Cageâ€™s work invites us to hear the beauty surrounding us, Rauschenbergâ€™s work invites us to see it.
He was never one for allowing conventional categories to impede the playful exploration that led to the creation of his art, and he also set designed sets, made performance art, choreographed dances, and wrote music, without regard for the distinctions between them. (Unfortunately none of his music is currently commercially available.) His legacy remains one of the most culturally transforming and influential of the second half of the century.
Video of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.): 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, for which Rauschenberg wrote the soundtrack.