Episode 144: Lisa Wainwright on Robert Rauschenberg

June 1, 2008 · Print This Article

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Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Rauschenberg passed away on May 12, 2008 at age 82. The Art Institute of Chicago’s own Rauscheberg expert Lisa Wainwright joins us to discuss his life and legacy.

Lisa Wainwright
Robert Rauschenberg
Jasper Johns
Miriam Schapiro
David Salle
Andy Warhol
Susan Weil
Black Mountain College
Joseph Albers
Janis Joplin
Kansas City Art Institute
Charles Olson
Franz Kline
John Cage
Art Students League
Christopher Rauschenberg
Cy Twombly
Kerry James Marshall
Anne Wilson
James Elkins
Gregg Bordowitz
Carol Becker
Sol Lewitt
Kym Pinder
Art Basel Miami
Gustav Klimt

Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_144-Wainwright_on_Rauschenberg.mp3

24 thoughts on “Episode 144: Lisa Wainwright on Robert Rauschenberg”

  1. Richard says:

    Special guest Marcel Duchamp for the intro, in case you were wondering.

  2. The Shark says:

    Lisa Wainwright! Now, you’re talking.

    Someone that causes The Shark to take a lunch break -ie stop chomping, (I know, shark/human…never the twain shall meet)…long enough to hear…as soon as my daughter calls it an evening that is….no doubt THIS, will be interesting…great choice you guys-

  3. ben says:

    you have to love bob, rob, robert rauschenberg. the legacy left might be unmonumental. the matthew monahan sculpture at the art institute looks really good.

  4. coyle says:

    classic from ‘painters painting’:


  5. You are kicking ass now Duncan. This podcast, following the last one, is once again great and a great idea.

    Now I also know why Wesley respects and talks up Lisa so much. She’s a wonderful, clear, intellectual (but with no jargon) — and she made some sharp-eyed comments and perceptions which were eye-opening to me. Great show!

  6. katie sehr says:

    You should have Stuckey on.

  7. katie sehr says:

    and a great show! thank you – i passed it along 😉

  8. mark creegan says:

    rockin’ show! A class on RR exclusively would be amazing and insightful. It is really difficult to imagine any artist again having the impact he had. I love thinking about that but I am at a total loss. Jonathan Katz has great insight on RR as well.

  9. Richard says:

    I used to work for Charley and I would love to have him on, he is completely brilliant.

  10. The Shark says:

    Duncan, why do you feel the need to denigrate Robert Hughes -particularly when you are referencing him? Because Mr. Hughes is not considered consensus correct? How hilarious was it watching all the aparatchiks freaking out -here and elsewhere, scurrying about in panic when Robert Hughes was made director of the Venice Biennial a few years ago. YEP! for all the conformist chicken littles, their version of the sky was indeed falling! And when finally the din of their combined squawking grew loud enough, Hughes simply walked away, washing his hands of the entire mess, going on to write a brilliant book on, Goya. Smart man, he could not be bothered. As for the biennial? Well, funny enough what followed was the biggest disaster in that events history -courtesy of Chicago’s own Francesco Bonami (with Mr. Curator lite/Rondeau in tow.)

    As I said to Lisa, I wish David Salle had not become such a focal point in the first portion of your discussion. Not only is he out of his league in comparison with Rauschenberg, but Julian Schnabel, (not that he fares much better-) his exploration of methods/materials along with broken narrative, would seem to me to be at least a more appropriate artist from the early 80’s to mention in terms of post modernism.

    It would be interesting to hear Lisa discuss the relationship between Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Kienholz…..as there is a rather large conversation taking place between the artists work it would seem, both employing collage and assemblage to redefine sculpture. The very different trajectories of their respective careers, their many differences as numerous as their shared territories might also be worth looking at-

    Lisa, I too gravitate towards the combines…..what doesn’t get mentioned in your discussion is how much of Rauschenbergs early work looks for a way to compete via compensation against the looming presence/ painterly brilliance via sheer plastic invention of “THE Greatest American Artist of the 20th Century” -quoting Chuck Close -and that would be Willem de Kooning- how many ‘Trophies For Bill de Kooning’ did Rauschenberg make anyway?

    I do agree with your comparisons of Johns and Rauschenberg -early Johns LOOKS! like Rauschenberg….and then for all of its elegance, comes off to me a stilted and self concious – problems Rauschenberg did not have, or at least, circumvented-

  11. I happen to love most (but not all) of both Rauschenberg and John’s work and wish that the forced dichotomy that is often created between them would disappear; where you have to prefer one over the other. That is simply a habit of “folk” art history — do you like Michelangelo or Leonardo better, Picasso or Matisse, Joyce or Hemingway, De Kooning or Pollock, Beatles or Stones, Chocolate or Strawberry.

    Of course it is exasperated due to the fact that they are an “ex-” couple. Johns is, at his best, more philosophical and “restrained,” Rauschenberg more exuberant and hit-or-miss. I think they fed into each others art well.

    Both have been mined almost to death too — and generally unacknowledged — Salle, as discussed, but also Sigmar Polke’s entire compositional strategy is from Bob. And I love Polke, but I think it is typical of our time that this remains unaddressed, especially in Europe where both Rauschenberg and Johns are often ignored due to residual anti-American, and perhaps homophobe, reasons.

  12. Canadan says:

    Same might be said of Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat’s relationship?
    Try getting THAT info out of “Basquiat” the movie…!

  13. Balzac says:

    David Bowie as Warhol!

    The only redeeming facet in an otherwise awful film about an awful painter.

  14. The Shark says:

    David Bowie is better at Warhol than Warhol in Basquiat…..I dont think its an awful film -though I agree with the assessment of Baquiats ability as a painter -but who cares, as thats not what is good about him: its his drawing -riffing off of Twombly that is often beautiful and mysteriously evocative, with its talented, elegant line quality—–unless of course you are Robert Hughes (and it seems, perhaps Balzac) who seems to hate everything about him-

  15. Balzac says:

    I think you are right there, I do hate everything about him, but I think my distaste is unfair in a way, as my true loathing was for the myth-making that went on around him that tainted my thoughts on everything else he did. The 80’s hype machine was silly.

  16. The Shark says:

    Balzac -btw I have an idea as to who you are- FORGET ABOUT THE 80’s! C’mon -200k for a crappy Karen Kilimnik rendition of Leonardo de Caprio as a musketeer?…..500,000.00 for an average looking watercolor of some pop star by Elizabeth Peyton? 15million dollars for a post impressionist revisited piece of fluff by Peter Doig?

    The 80’s look self effacing and modest compared to whats going on today- I can remember the outrage when Donald Sultan was getting 50k for his escapades in roofing tar…..chump change by todays standards-

    Basquiat draws beautifully.

  17. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Basquiat was a wonderful artist– and a necessary one– and a lovely , troubled guy. He was a comet.I always found Hughes’s appraisal of him harsh and churlish…. When I see his work now– It still burns , it still resonates– it keeps beginning; which is what great art must do.

  18. I never really thought much of Basquiat’s art. It’s okay, but I thought he was more of a concocted and then chewed-up “star.” BUT — I’ve watched the movie 5 times, believe it or not, because my art history classes have requested it. I think it holds up well!

    Yes, I can’t stand Schnabel as painter or as “media figure,” and Schnabel thoroughly self-aggrandizes beyond belief and beyond reality in the figure who plays the film version of himself (Albert Milo) — but I think he is a much better filmmaker than painter and much better filmmaker than I was prepared to expect! That hype and stuff around him and Basquiat, as Balzie mentions, poisoned me too much, I guess.

    Maybe a lot of the quality is Jeffrey Wright, but really, upon repeated viewing the whole flow and the cuts, narrative sequencing and the shifts in mood and such technical stuff holds together remarkably well. There are some actually almost elegant passages, and the like never appears in Schnabel’s mostly ham-fisted paintings.

    I’ve never managed to see the Pollock movie. How is it? Is it worth foisting on students? — maybe even just to discuss discrepancies or the like?

  19. The Shark says:

    Well I knew you would have something to say on this Tony- I will give Balzac that Basquiats paintings arent all that -he was a primitive oddly enough -and like most primitives, lacked the skill and discipline to assimilate and then move on and conflate different technical aspects/conceits of art making -something you can get away without in the frontloaded-immediacy of drawing but not with painting. Which is why the paintings appear just that way, front-loaded -with no depth, an awkward regurgitation of de kooning with stick figuration. Not so the drawings

    What Mark? You dont think Gary Oldman makes a good Schnabel? Is it the fact that Oldman is a somewhat skinny guy and Julian is as big as a house? No, he’s not much of a painter -but he sure beats the hell out of Kilimnik or Currin or any number of the high priced commodities as art of today-

  20. Debating Schnabel vs.Currin vs.Basquiat etc. is like picking the tallest in a midget contest…I love Schnabel’s movies though and, as mentioned above, that was a complete surprise…The trouble with Basquiat et al, for me, has always been the put-on primitivism and intentional crudeness meant to evoke some sort of raw authenticity…The strategies borrowed from street art and graffiti just don’t translate to the canvas; what’s powerful on the side of a train or a highway overpass becomes a desperate ploy in the service of novelty…A lot of these folks seem much more interesting as ‘characters’, an art world version of Britney Speers or Lindsey Lohan; most don’t go to them for their musical or thespian skills…

  21. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Gentlemen– you need to take another long, hard, look at Basquiat… there was a good deal more there than you might think…….and i assure you there was nothing put-on about how this guy saw the world– he was the real thing.

  22. The Shark says:

    Dimitry -most of your post is simply in my opinion, dead wrong. And what gives with the tallest midget metaphor? -you’re sounding like Tony Jr. or something- Schnabel may be awkward and obnoxious but he has certainly had his moments – even Currin whom I obviously dislike is better than you claim….your take on Basquiat is simply a false argument -what you are saying about graffiti artists is true about them -but Basquiat was never really one of them -oh he did graffiti -but it was always directed at the art world.

    the Britney/Lindsay comparison is lame -look, I know your paintings -you could learn a thing or two about picture making from any of these people you are putting down -think about it. Take some advice from a fairly iconoclastic, sometimes quite angry man -you come off as simply sour-I’m critical to a fault, and it starts in the studio with my own work -I spend a great portion of my existence painting ferociously to back up the talk, to earn the right to have and hold the opinions I expouse.

    Tony, you and I don’t have much to disagree with here -I think the paintings are not as good as the drawings -but I often think that about my own work…….Basquiat was a very developed drawer -but not so much as a painter -had he lived longer, who knows? Painting is not a young persons game really….it takes a long time to be good, to master-

  23. Bill Dolan says:

    My favorite scene in the Basquiat movie was when the electrician stringing lights in the gallery was lecturing him on the importance of a day job and Basquiat seemed to be focused on more important stuff. It really makes me cringe when I recall it.

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