We have come to be accustomed to urban and street artists building their aesthetics through the inexhaustible potential of interaction with the urban concept. However, this does not only refer to the creative work concerning the wall or an urban intervention which changes its surroundings intrusively. This refers to the power of using found objects, be they natural materials or pieces of popular culture and consumerism produced scraps. There was a man who certainly represents a source of inspiration for artists creating with the mentioned notions in mind. His name was Robert Rauschenberg.
The postwar era of American art in the wake of Abstract Expressionism was greatly influenced by Rauschenberg’s work which drew inspiration from such phenomena as materialism and conceptualism. These are the instances which will come to be extremely important when it comes to the changing nature of contemporary art, and especially the fields of urban and street art: Rauschenberg innovative approach of using discarded materials anticipated the creative process of the late 20th and the beginning of the 21st century which nurtures the interaction with the urban space; on the other hand, the artist reconceptualized the use of found objects in terms of interaction with the canvas. All of this rendered Rauscheberg to be an artist whose work resides somewhere between the horizon of abstraction and the factuality of the relationship on the line artwork-viewer. The artist had always aimed to create art which should be as unpredictable as the attributes which constitute our existential situation.
Robert Rauschenberg is very well known for the now famous and visionary project ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange) which took place in the time period between 1984 and 1991. This included exhibitions in eleven countries around the world and silkscreening photographic images onto huge sheets of copper and stainless steel. The inspiration came with the extensive travels of the artist (who found his way to Tibet, Germany, Mexico, former USSR, Venezuela, to name some of the countries) making this the most inventive period of his career. Gestural brushwork and fragmented photography overlap in the Urban Bourbon series (1988 – 1995) and in the Borealis paintings (1989 – 1992), the use of chemicals and ammonium salts had been applied to brass, copper and bronze sheets in order to achieve corrosive effects.
Works on Metal is a result of the artists obsession with the possibilities of metal. Executing the "postmodern twist" of replacing canvas for flat sheets of metal, Rauschenberg worked with brass, copper, aluminium and bronze with the goal of thoroughly examining the natural potential of the materials. Thus, the artist had the opportunity to explore the various forms of interaction with this extraordinary canvases, applying acrylic paints and silkscreened photographic images, as well as experimenting with chemical reactions… In the period between November 1st and December 13th 2014 at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, in collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the public will be able to see the artist’s works on metal of the 1980s and 1990s. This is going to be the first major presentation of Rauschenberg’s work on the West Coast since MOCA’s traveling exhibition of the Combines in 2006.
Images courtesy gagosian.com
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