Herron School of Art and Design
Through Oct. 8
Arguably one of the most preeminent visual artists of our day, Robert Rauschenberg is known as a vanguard whose ground-breaking experimentation opened the door to far greater possibilities on the two-dimensional plane. Rauschenberg, who is now in his 80s, is still making art - and while he may not be making the waves he once made, his work is still highly respected as variations on a theme of his life's work.
Robert Rauschenberg's 'Page 1, Paragraph 8' (2000) is part of the exhibit 'Rauschenberg/Pottorf/Rauschenberg' at the Herron School of Art and Design
Herron School of Art and Design makes the most of its new space with its current exhibition Rauschenberg/Pottorf/Rauschenberg, a coup for the institution, which includes the elder Rauschenberg, photographs by his son, Christopher Rauschenberg, and Darryl Pottorf, Rauschenberg's former assistant and collaborator.
One gets the sense at the outset that Rauschenberg's formidable presence was both seen and assimilated by both Christopher and Darryl Pottorf, who had adopted the Rauschenberg approach of a multiplicity of images intended to form a cohesive whole. Or not.
Robert Rauschenberg's paintings are a pastiche of images, narratives, you might say, that suggest a lofty meaning in the everyday. This, of course, is no longer new; and Rauschenberg may or may not be saying something new in his current approach. The collection here, selected from his recent series "Scenarios and Short Stories," suggests a bridge between the purely visual experience of composition and context and a more meaningful, personally associative one.
But where Rauschenberg is most compelling is in his sparer images. Works such as "Page 1, Paragraph 8 (Short Stories)" (2000) allows for a twice-repeated image of a small section of skyline to be balanced in a grid of four sections. The upper left grid is yellow; to the right of it, a pineapple sits in a ragged section of grey. There's something beautiful and inexplicable about this composition, which speaks to Rauschenberg's well-established eye for placement, and for an overall cohesiveness of images on a plane.
Darryl Pottorf is also more successful when he pares down the visual confusion. In "No Love Lost," sheep heads and buckets are the predominant images; and the darkness of his media - including toner - adds to a kind of murkiness. But "Moroccan Summer" offers more to chew on, or, rather, feels less random. No space is left unadorned, but Pottorf also takes care here to design his space to give a sense of order to the chaos - in terms of sheer numbers of images. A section of clothes hung to dry is balanced by a set of columns; an umbrella stands over a row of bicycles in the lower section; and a carriage graces the top section. All sections surround (or come from) a blank, square center, as if to suggest a radius.
Finally, Christopher Rauschenberg, who photographed places as diverse as Bergamo, Italy, and Lafayette, La., also makes much from piecing things together. In this case, it's sections of the place carefully put together to suggest a whole that isn't quite accurate, so that a set of stone steps next to a cobblestone road seems to suggest endless rock from such an up-close perspective. But "Lafayette" goes deeper than skewed documentary: The dated photographs (from 1989) depict an oak tree as the center, from which all else emanates. The tree is grand, sprawling and iconographically suggestive, but also simply beautiful.
Ultimately, the work of all three artists should be taken in a larger context; this certainly isn't a groundbreaking show for Rauschenberg, but it does offer a view into his powers as a visual artist - and his continued influence. Vestiges of his collage-graphic approach are part of the mainstream of today's visual art. But like all great artists, he speaks to what will soon be spoken to - before it's common to the language.
Rauschenberg/Pottorf/Rauschenberg is on view through Oct. 8 in the Eleanor Prest Reese and Robert B. Berkshire Galleries at Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI, 735 W. New York St. Gallery hours: daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursdays until 7. Call 278-9418 or visit www.herron.iupui.edu for information.