Correlation and Causation

Oct 15, 2014 4:18PM

With the advent of each new art movement, even as radical changes in the format of art are made, certain elements stay the same. As innovative and avant-garde as it was, Robert Rauschenberg’s work still followed the same design principles laid out by his artistic predecessors, and his contributions to art were the next logical steps in the progression of art. Through Correlation and Causation, we examine Rauschenberg’s work in the context of artists who came before and after him, relating these works through their compositional characteristics and thematic parallels.

            Within this exhibit, there are seven groupings of art works that relate visually or conceptually. The first relates Rauschenberg’s Quiet House—Black Mountain with Picasso’s Femme assise dans un fauteuil and Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew. Visually, these works’ relationship relies on the strong presence of diagonal light. Thematically, together they explore the evolution of realistic portrayal: Caravaggio sought to naturalistically portray his subjects, Picasso believed in capturing multiple angles to express the subject, and Rauschenberg’s photograph is as close to capturing visual sight as possible.

            The second section deals with the hand Impressionist painting had on Rauschenberg, with Boudin’s Women on the Beach at Berek and Rauschenberg’s Memorandum of Birds. It explores the Impressionist practice of favoring medium over subject matter, and how Rauschenberg takes that idea a step further by giving up any kind of narrative to shift the focus to his use of materials.

            Further exploring the focus on nonobjective use of materials, Bohtlinkg’s Untitled and Rauschenberg’s Mother of God relate literally, as they both depict a subject with a hole through it. However, Bohtlinkg’s concrete structures seem highly unstable and uncertain, whereas Rauschenberg’s work is a rigid, super flat cut map.

            Alison Saar’s Undone and Rauschenberg’s Preview – two works which bring back objectivity while still emphasizing medium – are placed across from and face each other; their placement enhancing each piece’s confrontational nature. Rauschenberg’s use of fabric was new in its day, and created a place in art where using textiles as a medium is common, as evidenced in this contemporary work. The next grouping of Seminole Host and Upload/Download: Au Centre Pompidou ties to the previous through the prominent figure in Rauschenberg’s piece. When placed together, these pieces illustrate Rauschenberg’s influence through printing.

            In Rauschenberg’s Theatre (Tribute 21), there is a direct reference to Renaissance painting, as the Mona Lisa is featured in the center. Barba’s Self Portrait: Frida Khalo implements a similar concept of collaging together completely separate elements and forcing their cohesion.

            We end the exhibit with one of Rauschenberg’s more well-known combines, Monogram. In joining found objects with each other to create a new piece of art, Rauschenberg is essentially creating a tangible still life. Thus, we supplement this piece with Claesz’s Still Life with Turkey Pie, reinforcing what this exhibit explores by showing how work that is separated across many movements share a similar goal – only their approach to achieving this goal is what differs.

Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019