The exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Combines’, which opened recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is a glorious testament to the artist’s explosive, proto-Pop vision. It traces the decade (from 1954 to 1964) when the artist broke through the picture plane to embrace the flux and flotsam of everyday life. While Rauschenberg’s unbridled creative energy and paradigm-shattering gestures cannot be disputed, what struck me about the exhibition was how quaint the work seems today. The faded newsprint, old paisley fabrics, rusting wires and shabby plumage of taxidermied birds made the three-dimensional collages look like relics; emblems of a once radical moment when the real world promised to penetrate and forever alter the aesthetic realm. But it was less the physical condition of the works than the attitude they conveyed that made me think about their ultimate failure to change anything beyond the inventory of materials available for image- or object-making. Artists no longer had merely to represent the world; they could now actually use it as fodder for their work. The world, however, stayed pretty much the same.
At approximately the same time that Rauschenberg was mating tyres and angora goats with splattered paint in New York a group of artists, filmmakers and theorists in Europe were also contemplating the intersection of art and life, but to more critically engaged political ends.
more from Frieze here.