Dyslexia and Three-dimensionality: Rauschenberg vs. Picasso

A physiological condition connects such diverse artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo, Chuck Close and Andy Warhol: dyslexia. Dyslexia shaped the perception of their surroundings. This visual disorientation resulted in an inability to separate easily a central object from surrounding ones, so that they were not able to establish a visual hierarchy.

I will focus on Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso. Robert Rauschenberg once said: “Painting relates to both art and life.” I will consider this in relation to his dyslexia and his tendency towards three-dimensionality. He probably reached the acme of his work with “Combines” (1953-62, Combines' heroic period), in which his visuospatial perception resulted in the development of his creative techniques and of his studio practice. Picasso similarly did it, with his first collage, “Still-life with Chair Caning”, in Spring 1912.

I have chosen “Still-life with Chair Caning”, because this example of High Analytic Cubism stands out when considering his work. Bearing in mind his subsequent collages and papier collés, evocative sense of ambiguity and illusion are reduced to a minimum level. The shape of fragments of various materials is not the medium by which the object is identified; indeed, the patterned oilcloth conveys a substantial physicality. The oilcloth is relevant for its materiality, not its shape. Furthermore, looking at the boat-rope, the trompe-l'oeil effect is restricted to the use of the rope as a frame for the oval format of the painting. The rope is definitely nothing more than a rope per se, which is an integral part of the painting and still encloses somehow the other elements.

The rope was directly collected from reality, in order to become the material remembrance of Picasso's stay in Le Havre, a material souvenir. The pictorial space shares a situation comparable to Rauschenberg's one, namely the simultaneity of past time. The mental space of memory is rejected, for the benefit of the materialised image like real objects in an external space. Every personal experience and emotional event is immediately seized upon and offered to the public domain, under the form of physical objects.

A scientific explanation allows me to say that these creations were the accomplishment of the objectives of their own research. These pieces reveal their own creative strategy, which makes them feel at ease among an innumerable amount of simultaneous visual stimuli. This allows the once disoriented audience to view them through the artists’ eyes. Through their creative strategy, they reoriented and reassembled the objects of their vision. Objects of everyday life - a sort of ready-made - were included in the pictorial field of their canvases. The objects, themselves, structured their own composition and merged with the background. There is no fixed distinction in the layering of levels; the visual schemes cannot permit it.