Robert Rauschenberg, the irrepressibly prolific American artist who time and again reshaped art in the 20th century, died Monday night of heart failure. He was 82. In The NY Times, Michael Kimmelman writes that Rauschenberg’s primary interest lay in the process, not the product. “The process � an improvisatory, counterintuitive way of doing things � was always what mattered most to him. ‘Screwing things up is a virtue,’ he said when he was 74. ‘Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can�t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.’ This attitude also inclined him, as the painter Jack Tworkov once said, ‘to see beyond what others have decided should be the limits of art.’ Rauscheberg �keeps asking the question � and it�s a terrific question philosophically, whether or not the results are great art,’ Jack Tworkov said, ‘and his asking it has influenced a whole generation of artists….’� Read Michael Kimmelman’s fascinating obit in the NY Times.
I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Rauschenberg a few years ago. I am no artist, but was impressed by two things — his kindness (listening patiently to strangers at the party telling him about their talent, and asking him about his methods), and the charming combination of apparent mystification and amusement as he took in all of the objects and people around him. A wonderful presence.
Rauschenberg�s influence is beyond description. He was a force. Even with the likes of many, many other artists clouding any artist’s vision, Rauschenberg cleared a path. We have seen through his eyes. He has always pointed out the way. Many of us have followed him. Not necessarily through the type of work we do, but through our mindset which was inspired by him. He is and always will be a phenomenon of American Art.
Gosh, I am so happy I knew of him. Yet, I am so sad he is gone.