Thaddaeus Ropac presents 'Robert Rauschenberg: Japanese Clayworks'

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Thaddaeus Ropac presents 'Robert Rauschenberg: Japanese Clayworks'
he Japanese Clayworks feature sculptural elements reminiscent of Rauschenberg’s Combines and Spreads.

SALZBURG.- The first comprehensive exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s Japanese clayworks brings together rarely seen works from two formative series which represented a major innovation in the artist's practice from 1982 onwards.

This exhibition of key works from Robert Rauschenberg’s Japanese Clayworks (1982/1985) and Japanese Recreational Clayworks (1982–83/1985) highlights two formative series that represented a major innovation in his practice from 1982 onwards. Created in a period of the artist’s career that has yet to be fully explored, some of these works are being shown publicly for the first time outside Japan, where they were created. A selection from these series was exhibited at Leo Castelli’s gallery in New York in 1982–83.

The Japanese Clayworks feature sculptural elements reminiscent of Rauschenberg’s Combines and Spreads, photographic imagery of ancient and modern Japan and painterly brushstrokes. By combining aspects of both painting and sculpture, he blurred the boundaries between these artistic categories.

While Rauschenberg was waiting for these works to be fired in the kiln at the Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Company (OOCC), he came across the various reproductions of historical icons from Western art, which the company specialised in manufacturing. These images inspired him to create his Japanese Recreational Clayworks, composed of prefabricated ceramic panels to which he added imagery of contemporary Japan from his own photographs along with gestural brushwork. The exhibition will include an entire room dedicated to his works featuring recreations of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503–1519), an image also famously adopted by Rauschenberg’s close friend and inspiration Marcel Duchamp for his L.H.O.O.Q. series (begun in 1919).

In a 15-year time period, Rauschenberg made several trips to Japan where he created these ceramic artworks using a newly developed technique that combined ancient Japanese pottery traditions with modern innovations. Through close collaboration with the OOCC, Rauschenberg was able to transfer silkscreened imagery onto thin yet robust ceramic supports.

Travel to foreign countries, where he explored the use of local materials and worked with local artisans, was a fundamental part of Rauschenberg’s artistic practice. He embraced international cultures through his contact with people and ideas from around the world and and continually challenged the potential of materials and definitions of medium and originality.

Rauschenberg's exploration of groundbreaking intersections between art, craftsmanship and technology engaged with many of the critical questions he addressed across his artistic practice. He explored ways in which, as an artist, he could respond to pressing political, environmental and social challenges, contribute to peace and cross-cultural understanding and produce universally meaningful images in an increasingly global world. His experiences of working in Japan further laid the foundation for the development of the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI), which was subsequently realised in ten countries around the world between 1984 and 1991, including Japan.

This exhibition is presented in cooperation with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Two other gallery exhibitions coincide with Japanese Clayworks at Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg: Robert Rauschenberg: Venetians and Early Egyptians, 1972–1974 at Gladstone Gallery, New York (4 May – 18 June 2022) and Robert Rauschenberg: Exceptional Works, 1971–1999 at Mnuchin Gallery, New York (3 May – 11 June 2022).

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