The Gagosian has been dealt some real blows in the past year, with Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and most recently Yayoi Kusama upping sticks and leaving the gallery for pastures new. But whilst their brigade of contemporary Super Artists may have temporarily depleted in numbers, Gagosian continue to represent the estates of some of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists, including that of Robert Rauschenberg.
Rauschenberg is best known for his textured painting/sculpture hybrids composed of found materials. They have featured cardboard boxes, newspapers, and even bedclothes (borrowed from an unsuspecting neighbour) which he splattered suggestively with paint and mounted on the wall to create the now-iconic Bed. His work is familiar to us as both powerfully rebellious and carefully planned, humble in materials but big in impact. Now showing at Gagosian’s Britannia Street gallery are works of quite a different tone: Rauschenberg’s Jammers, created in 1975 following the artist’s short trip to India.
The Jammers are made of gauzy fabrics which seem to skim the walls, hanging weightlessly from pins or lightly strung from large, propped-up rattan poles. Broad quadrangular panels each dyed in a single, vivid colour are carefully stitched together: in Gull, deep blue is married with muted taupe, in Mirage, canary yellow with scarlet. The colours sing out into the stark white space from behind intervening layers of translucent muslin. Some of the pieces incorporate tin cans, scrubbed and shining, providing little punctuation marks to the big statements of colour. Although their aesthetic is certainly simpler and more elegant than Rauschenberg’s other work, the Jammers do not represent a total departure from previous projects. As their own breed of wall-based sculptural textiles they too refuse to be confined to one artistic category.
Robert Rauchenberg: the artist who combined the media of sculpture and painting, the guy who erased the de Kooning, the lover of Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly. But also the artist who was sensible of the expressive power of raw materials and has a keen eye for colour. You might have thought that you knew Rauschenberg’s work relatively well. Jammers at Gagosian Gallery proves otherwise. (Words: Florence Ritter)
Robert Rauchenberg: Jammers is on until March 28th. For more info, visit http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/robert-rauschenberg–february-16-2013