Rauschenberg's Worldwide Quest For Art and Ideas
YOUR hand and arm and maybe your face are mirrored in the catalog for contemporary artist Robert Rauschenberg's new show, called ROCI (pronounced "Rocky"). The mirror image on the silvery, reflective cover (designed by the artist) is a symbol of what "ROCI," the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange, is all about.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It's about a seven-year artistic odyssey Rauschenberg made to 10 countries around the world. Approximately 150 works of art, ranging from paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videotapes, to a giant kite and neon bicycle are included in the multimedia exhibit that opened last week, and will run at the gallery's East Building through Sept. 2.
The catalog's mirrored cover also symbolizes much of the artwork itself, which is done on reflective surfaces like copper, stainless steel, and mirrored aluminum. Rauschenberg's reflections may also be an artistic metaphor for his images of the places he visited and captured in diverse media: Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Beijing, Lhasa (Tibet), Japan, Cuba, Soviet Union, Berlin, and Malaysia. He has become the Jack Kerouac of artists, on the road to promote an international dialogue through art, encouragin g
"world peace and under- standing."
During his trek for art, Rauschenberg may have also taken a voyage inside himself to discover how much art means to him. He has left a painting or work of art in every country he has visited, including the United States where he has given 29 pieces to the National Gallery, including several from the ROCI/USA section, which was planned as the culmination of the world tour. None of the ROCI/USA works has ever been seen before, and many of the ROCI works have not been on view to the public outside of the o riginating countries.
Robert Rauschenberg announced the ROCI venture among diplomats and ambassadors in 1984 at the United Nations. He was so determined to get the show on the road that he ended up financing most of it himself.
At a press viewing of the exhibition, Rauschenberg said "I had to sell most of my best Twomblys and earliest Warhols, and all of that. But I thought this has more to do even for them with life, than hanging on to the collection.... [Yet] I didn't have enough money. I wanted desperately to take ROCI to China (only Beijing is represented) and just literally ran out of money. But Venezuela wanted the show, and so they arranged to have their Air Force fly down to Chile [where the show was on exhibit] and pi ck it up. Don [Saff, artistic director for ROCI] and I joked, 'Hey, that might stop all the wars, to just have them carry art around all the time.
Don Saff says the artist chose to go to what he calls "sensitive areas." For the trip to Cuba, "we could hardly get the work there because there wasn't one transporter in the US that was willing to take on the shipment." As Rauschenberg himself pointed out, "When you have nine tons of painting, it can't sit on the dock too long." He also added that this original list of 22 countries "more or less neglected or questionable or sensitive excluded all the obvious choices like Paris and Dusseldorf. The list was also considerably shortened in terms of "the cooperation we could get from those countries."