The American artist Jasper Johns (B.1935) once said of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) that he had invented more than any artist since Picasso. Rauschenberg has altered the cultural landscape and continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary artists. Robert Rauschenbeg: Botanical Vaudeville is the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist to take place in the UK in thirty years and it features thirty seven works made between 1982 and 1998.
During this time, Rauschenberg was exploring the reflective, textural, sculptural and thematic effects of metal, glass and other reflective surfaces in several series of works. All are represented here, and the paintings and sculptures on display vary from the highly-polished glamorous metallic works from the Shiner and Borealis series that celebrate energy and motion, to the Kabal American Zephyr and Gluts series which represent Rauschenbergs fascination with the discarded object. He once stated: I think painting is more like the real world when it is made out of the real world. These works in particular benefit from being shown in natural light which is such a feature of exhibitions at Inverleith House
, revealing their true colour enhanced by multiple reflections of the viewer and the Garden which became part of the work.
Rauschenberg has his first one-man show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York exactly sixty years ago (in 1951) and he was the first American artist to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Bienniale, in 1964 (one year after his first retrospective exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York, at the age of 38). Whilst Rauschenberg is justifiably known for his ground-breaking work of the 1950s and the 60s: in particular his Combines and collaborations with the composer John Cage and the dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham, his work from the period represented here is relatively little known and never before been shown in the UK.
The exhibition title Botanical Vaudeville is that given to one of the works (from 1991) displayed in the last room. The documentary film Robert Rauschenberg creative Genius (American Masters), directed by Karen Thomas (2004, 60mins) is being screened continuously throughout the exhibition in the lower-ground floor gallery (acess via the lift). Botanical Vaudeville follows previous exhibitions at Inverleith House by Rauschenbergs close friends and collaborators; Cy Twombly (2002), John Cage and Merce Cunningham (2007).
The exhibition has been curated by David White and Ealan Wingate, with project co-ordination by Thomas Buehler. We are indebted to the Rauschenberg Stuido, New York and Gagosian Gallery for their generous assistance in making the exhibition possible.