two vintage electric fans


Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends at MoMA

Thinking of the spirit of community, I put on my Scooter combine jacket to attend the Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at MoMa. Last week was the member preview, and I noticed the photos Dan Romer, and Tony, had posted and I immediately wanted to go, feeling something special was in store.

I was especially attracted to a painting called Pantomime, from 1961, which featured two vintage electric fans which I thought were Diehl but upon seeing them in the flesh realized they were Graybar.

Kats had invited me to see the exhibit and so we went last Saturday. I was immediately intrigued by the expanses of blue and the childlike lines of the first canvases on view. Tickled by a photo of Cy Twombly—one of my biggest heroes—looking like Van, I read a description of how the Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC was where Bauhaus professor Josef Albers and his wife Anni were part of the faculty, bringing some of the German school’s defining ideas with them.

The focus on exploring the properties of materials and their combination—color, texture—and how juxtaposition changes their perception, brings forth endless possibilities. Cy, Bob, John Cage and Merce Cunningham came alive in my mind. I sensed so many correlations to our scene today, where collaboration, playfulness and love abound.

I loved reading the instructions for making a White Painting, and a Twombly titled Tiznit, originally exhibited near one. I was in sheer delight seeing sculptures that reminded me of the spirit of exploration of personal interiors so dear… Rachel Rosenthal’s cat, for instance, sat on a balsa-wood-and-fabric cube that is part of sculpture and broke it, and Bob made another one for her.

I adore the Bed painting, which has everything from toothpaste to fingernail polish as medium and which Bob made on a quilt gifted to him by Dorothea Rockburne. The combination of elements features scribbles attributed to Cy on the pillow portion; he often hung out in Bob’s Fulton Street studio.

I was inspired by the Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, as well as an untitled sculpture of a can with a pocket watch which Bob gave Frank Stella as a gift, and which he further gifted to his bride Barbara Rose.

Then I entered a room where combines abounded, among the vestiges of Tinguely’s Homage to New York, and Rauschenberg’s Coin Thrower response. I stopped to admire the Black Market painting with its box labeled ‘open,’ originally containing objects to be drawn on paper. The drawings would then be attached to four clipboards on the painting.

Did a complete stop in front of Pantomime, with the two fans…. Serendipitously ran into Van and Kelly’s lovely studio mate Angela, who took photos of me in front of the combine. I wanted to illustrate how Scooter’s jacket would seamlessly combine with the combine, becoming one while I mesh into the art.  

I admired Gold Standard, a Japanese folding screen on which Bob painted in response to interview questions from critic Tono Yoshiaki, transforming the exercise into a performance event, 20 Questions to Bob Rauschenberg.

Inspired by the silkscreen paintings which earned him the grand prize for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1964, the machine-like sculptures pouting water and incorporating AM radios with technology by Bell Systems, as well as Mud Muse, the gurgling behemoth which made me laugh and endeared with its gigantic computer, I walked into a hall of cardboard reliefs which I thoroughly adored.

Volon (Cardboard) was my favorite, made of gorgeous powder blue boxes that originally contained some sort of fiberglass material.

So much to see and absorb made me want to go see the exhibit again in a spirit of pilgrimage, which I will surely do. Lovely to be greeted on the way out by Grand Tie Black Sperm Glut, an amalgamation of weathered road signs.

Photos: 1-2, Angela Marie Hoener. 3-10, Jorge Clar.