In his insightful and engrossing lecture, Leo Steinberg surveys and critiques the work of Robert Rauschenberg, one of the great American post-war artists. He also discusses his own experience as a critic in the exciting and turbulent art world of New York in the 1950s and 1960s. The result is a rare glimpse not only into Rauschenberg, but also into Steinberg.
With the sharpness and confidence that can only come from a critic who has long been involved with Rauschenberg's work, Steinberg offers an in-depth discussion of such major pieces as the Erased DeKooning Drawing, Bed, and Monogram. He explains the subtle differences between his interpretations and those of other critics, such as Clement Greenberg and Hilton Kramer. He candidly reflects on how he has changed his mind over the years, and defends his new ideas about Rauschenberg's work with precise, fresh arguments. He critically evaluates Rauschenberg's more recent work and addresses how it falls short from the artist's earlier work.
From Rauschenberg's silk-screen prints of the 1960s to the vegetable dye transfer prints of the 1990s, Steinberg warns against the dangers of overinterpretation and iconographic enthusiasm. He argues that the unifying strand through this great artist's work is his drive to appropriate, to take objects and images from the world and make them his own by making them become a part of his art.
Provocative, intelligent, and beautifully articulated, Steinberg's words shed light on one remarkable artist and on the post-war New York art scene, on Steinberg's particular appreciation of Rauschenberg and on his life's work as an art critic.