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Combines: a New Art Form by Robert Rauschenberg

“I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop, At the time that I am bored or understand — I use those words interchangeably — another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore.”

― Robert Rauschenberg


Famous American artist Robert Rauschenberg helped to create the pop art movement that exploded in popularity in the 1960s. His contributions to art are well recognised. The most recognisable aspect of Rauschenberg\’s work is his unorthodox approach, odd methods, and depiction of commonplace items. This is considered to be his signature and distinctive style. In his paintings, sculptures, and prints, Robert Rauschenberg examines the nexus between commonplace things and fine art.

Robert Rauschenburg was born on October 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Texas. Perhaps best known for his mixed media \’Combines\’, Robert Rauschenberg was an influential American avant-garde painter, and multi-disciplinary artist. From the late 1950s to the early 1970s he pioneered conceptual and technical developments in painting and assemblage as well as a slew of other disciplines.


Between 1954 and 1964, Rauschenberg became known for starting original works he called Combines. He coined the term Combine meaning a combination of three dimensional and two dimensional elements. He combined painted and printed surfaces with found things, or commonplace objects like bottles, wire, bicycle parts, tyres, and even taxidermied animals. He had used waste materials to produce a novel kind of art, fusing the disciplines of sculpting and painting.One of his earliest Combines to gain notice was Bed. It includes a sagging pillow, sheets, and a quilt covered with layers of toothpaste, nail polish and spattered paint. It looks slept in. As the name suggests, it\’s a bed but hanging on the wall. Some critics called it violent, but Rauschenberg said it was one of the friendliest works he did.


Another combine, Monogram, on which Rauschenberg worked from 1955 to 1959, is one of his most famous works. Monogram includes a stuffed Angora goat Rauschenberg bought at a discount from a New York City antique store. He ringed it with a tire and stood it on top of a flat painted surface that also held parts of a street barricade and collage elements (sole of a shoe, tennis ball). The goat\’s face is brightly painted. This work might look impromptu and thrown together, but it involved many preliminary studies and photos. Rauschenberg went through several phases of the work before he was satisfied.


Rauschenberg had a string of medical disasters, Following a hip fracture in 2001, an intestinal rupture, a stroke in 2002, and eventual paralysis of his right side.  Rauschenberg learnt to use his left hand for his work with the help of his friend and carer, Darryl Pottorf. He kept working right up until his heart failure caused his death on May 12, 2008.


Rauschenberg once stated, “painting relates to both art and life, and I want to work in the gap between the two.” According to a proverb, art depicts life, and life represents art, and so the circle continues. But Rauschenberg preferred to make the circle into a dot where everything would be contained rather than trying to depict both sides of it. He achieved great popularity and received high praise for his distinctive style, and he served as an inspiration to innumerable contemporary artists throughout the world with his natural and unrestrained way of expressing his creative vision using non-traditional and alternative art materials.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Rauschenberg
  2. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/rauschenberg-robert/
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/robert-rauschenberg-a-clear-eyed-views-of-chaos-or-just-chaos/2017/08/11/22012078-7c70-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html

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