May 14, 2008 / 1:50 AM / 10 years ago

American artist Robert Rauschenberg dies

MIAMI (Reuters) - Acclaimed American artist Robert Rauschenberg died at his home on Captiva Island in Florida at the age of 82, his gallery said on Tuesday.

Seminal North American pop artist Robert Rauschenberg stands in front of one of his works, a bicycle illuminated with neon, at the presentation of his retrospective exhibit in Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum in this November 20, 1998 file photo. REUTERS/Vincent West

Rauschenberg, labeled a titan of American art by The New York Times, had been ill for a while and died Monday night, Jennifer Joy of the Pace Wildenstein gallery in New York said.

Rauschenberg, born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1925, spearheaded a style in the 1950s he came to call “combines,” which incorporated aspects of painting and sculpture and eventually included objects such as a stuffed eagle or goat and street signs.

He became one of the most influential artists reacting against Abstract Expressionism, according to a Guggenheim Museum biography, while a Pace Wildenstein biography said Rauschenberg’s work was part of “virtually every important international collection of contemporary art.”

“Robert Rauschenberg felt art should reflect the real world, three-dimensionally,” said Catherine Saunders-Watson, editor-in-chief of arts publications Style Century Magazine.

“In some ways, his genius could be compared to that of Picasso, who found inspiration in the common objects of everyday life,” she said. “Rauschenberg viewed virtually any physical object as having exploitable artistic potential.”

In the 1960s, he began silk-screen paintings and then embarked on a period of more collaborative projects that included performance art, choreography, set design and art-and-technology combinations.

In 1970 Rauschenberg established a permanent studio on Captiva island, off Florida’s Gulf coast, where he made his home.

“I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop,” he said in an interview in 2000, the Times reported.

“At the time that I am bored or understand — I use those words interchangeably — another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore.

“Anything you do will be an abuse of somebody else’s aesthetics. I think you’re born an artist or not. I couldn’t have learned it. And I hope I never do because knowing more only encourages your limitations.”


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