The early 1950s, when Rauschenberg (1925–2008) launched his career, was the heyday of the heroic gestural painting of Abstract Expressionism. Rauschenberg challenged this tradition with an egalitarian approach to materials, bringing the stuff of the everyday world into his art. Working alone and in collaboration with artists, dancers, musicians, and writers, he invented new, interdisciplinary modes of artistic practice that helped set the course for art of the present day. The ethos that permeates Rauschenberg’s work—openness, commitment to dialogue and collaboration, and global curiosity—makes him, now more than ever, a touchstone for our troubled times.
Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, the first 21st-century retrospective of the artist, presents work from six decades of his widely celebrated career in fresh ways, bringing together over 250 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and sound and video recordings. Acclaimed artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas is collaborating on the exhibition’s design to foreground Rauschenberg’s work with dance and performance. MoMA’s presentation is structured as an “open monograph”—as other artists came into Rauschenberg’s creative life, they come into the exhibition, mapping the exchange of ideas. These figures include John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Sari Dienes, Jasper Johns, Billy Klüver, Yvonne Rainer, Paul Taylor, David Tudor, Cy Twombly, Susan Weil, and many others.