Sunday, January 20, 2008

Steinberg on Rauschenberg

Yesterday I went to one of my favourite places, the Port of Spain Public Library. I hadn't been for over a year, and was surprised at the changes -- for one, the shelves are much better stocked than before. The librarians have been doing a terrific job.

My card had expired and the machine for making new ones was down so they extended my old card for a month. I had only a few minutes to spare so I dashed back up the stairs and grabbed a book about Robert Rauschenberg who I've recently begun to like a lot. Here is a a quote from its author, Leo Steinberg:

"In an interview with Barbara Rose (1987), Rauschenberg said [...] that in his early years he "loved to draw". It now occurs to me -- looking over Rauschenberg's work after 1953 -- that he hardly draws anymore. Even his brushwork, when he spreads paint on a surface, is never an Abstract Expressionist stroke, which usually forms a trajectory. Rauschenberg's laid-back pigments are the cool substance of paint, never describe anything, refuse to transfigure. In a word, no draftsmanship. And even in 1953, he sensed where he was heading -- toward a visual art that had no further use for the genius of drawing."

By Leo Steinberg, from Encounters with Rauschenberg, published jointly by The Menil Collection, Houston, and the University of Chicago Press, in 2000.

The book is not a monograph exactly. It's the text of a lecture Steinberg gave at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1997, and again at the Menil Collection in Houston in 1998, for a Rauschenberg retrospective. It's a pleasant and informative read and is well illustrated.)

Below is a self-portrait of me reading the book, to celebrate going back to Mac.

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