"in the gap:" body presence / Rauschenberg 1950-1959

stefan hoffmann
Oct 20, 2014 4:03PM

The exhibition focuses on the presence of the body in Rauschenberg's early works: Presence and absence, sensuality and sexuality, body and spirit are the themes the viewer will come across. The show is designed to help today's public understand and question some of Rauschenberg's decisive artworks from the fifties.


Visitors move clockwise through five rooms forming a square. The first and the fifth room, entrance and exit are situated next to each other. The central third room is essential for understanding the often ironic and playful presence of the body in Rauschenberg's art: The visitors step upon a wooden stage like entering a 'happening' in the inner square of the exhibition space, where the important "Monogram," the body of a stuffed goat 'pasturing art,' could be read as a self-portrait of the artist of the tire print and the white paintings. It is situated in an arrangement between "Pail for Ganymede" and "Odalisk," two works drawing heavily on classical references to the theme of sensuality and temptation, which culminates in the more blatant work "Bed."


This ambiguity is hinted at already in the first room: Two life-size bodies of a blueprint from a series Rauschenberg produced with his wife Susan Weil are confronted with five allusive photos taken during a trip of the artist with Cy Twombly.


In the first part the L-shaped second room shows only one long white painting, on which the passers-by cast shadows of "life," and the "Self-portrait," a trace of the artist's body as well as a proof of artistic authenticity of the white painting. Edith Piaf songs from a gramophone recall Rauschenberg's participation in Event n°1 with Cunningham and Cage at Black Mountain College. The following works are evocative of the sensuality of their production and the artist's intervention. A table is prepared for the visitors to create clay paintings and experience the sensuality themselves.


The central square leads to the fourth room: In reference to the visitors' progression in time and through the exhibition the "Carnal Clock" (a later work) displays intimate photos of Rauschenberg's friends. A photo of "Feticci Personali" in the center and "Mother of God" at the far end of this dimly lit corridor present a rather ironic understanding of presence and absence of the 'spiritual body.' Visitors are invited to prepare their own 'feticci personali' with supplied materials and either wear them or dumb them in a nearby river.


Finally the "Automobile tire print" demonstrates Rauschenberg's efforts to limit the influence of personal preferences on his art. The circle of the expositon, which began with the shadows cast by the bodies of Bob and Suzan, closes with an almost white paper, where de Kooning's woman has disappeared. Following his example, visitors can collaborate to erase a copy of a de Kooning drawing produced by an art student.

Repeating a gesture: Is that art?

Are white 're'-paintings authentic artworks?

Visitors may strive for answers "in the gap" between "art and life."

stefan hoffmann
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019