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Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 29, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“I commend Calvin Tomkins, as Bernard Berenson did Vasari, for 'being a singularly warm, generous, and appreciative critic.'” ―The New York Times Book Review

“As chronicler of the avant-garde for The New Yorker, Calvin Tomkins has specialized in rendering the esoteric doings of artists comprehensible.” ―The Washington Post Book World

About the Author

Calvin Tomkins, a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1960, has written more than a dozen books, including the bestseller Living Well Is the Best Revenge, Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Bride and the Bachelors, and his highly acclaimed biography Duchamp. He lives in New York city with his wife Dodie Kazanjian.

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312425856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312425852
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Lucky, lucky, lucky. That's how I felt after a friend lent me a copy of this out-of-print book. Here was a first hand chronicle of the New York art scene from the 50s to the 70s. Although Rauschenberg was the main artist featured, interesting vignettes about other artists were included, from Jasper Johns to Marcel Duchamp, from De Kooning to Andy Warhol. Did you know that it was Rauschenberg who influenced Jasper Johns to quit his bookstore job and go full-time into art? Rauschenberg's career is fascinating itself. Read and enjoy.
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Format: Paperback
I had just read Tomkins exhaustive and excellent biography of Duchamp when I picked up this book to read. This book is very entertaining and eye opening yet not quite the detailed book that he wrote of Duchamp.

That said, I would highly recommend you read this book, not just for the insight into Raschenberg's life and art, but also for the detail that Tompkins exercises about the Abstract Expressionist movement among others, and the contemporary artists whom Raschenberg interacted with during his time in New York.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought that I understood a lot about abstract expressionism, pop, dada and the usual suspects and players in those years of American and New York Art but were my eyes opened! Calvin Tompkins masterfully unfolds the evolution of Bob Rauschenberg and his seemingly hypo manic creativity. The artist pushed the envelope, sometimes unsuccessfully but relentlessly. The writing is superb and the book, drawn from many previosly written pieces in the New Yorker and elsewhere, reads as compellingly as an action novel.
Paul A.
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Format: Paperback
Incredibly informative. Thomkins provides excrutiating detail in the most interesting way. Never a dull moment. If you have any interest in Rauschenberg, Johns, Happenings, etc., then you should read this book. There is no way that you will walk away without learning MANY new things.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best books that I have read on the Post-War New York art scene. Although it is supposed to be focused on Robert Rauschenberg, the scope is much broader than that, although Rauschenberg and his art are certainly central to the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love everything what Calvin Tompkins writes and Robert Rauschenberg is my favorite artist so this book couldn't be more delightful - written with a lot of everyday life details and historical facts this book gives a very wide overview of not only the life of this amazing artist, but also tells a lot about exciting art scene of New York from early 50's till almost today.
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Format: Paperback
In the argument over who was the greatest artist of the second half of the 20th century, my vote goes to Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg was like America's equivalent to Picasso because he was a central hub around which so many different movements interacted and revolved--dada, surrealism, and abstract expressionism which preceded him; pop art and conceptual art which followed him; to name a few. Another reason he deserves such a title is because he had a long, prolific career in which he worked in a variety of styles and media. Always experimenting, never resting on his laurels; his work remained relevant even into his elderly years.

There are at least several beautiful coffee table books available on Rauschenberg, but Calvin Tomkins' Off the Wall isn't one of them. Despite a couple dozen black-and-white photos, the text is the main attraction in this 1980 biography. Tomkins brilliantly surveys Rauschenberg's life and work while chronicling the American art movement as a whole from the end of the Second World War through the 1970s. With the advent of abstract expressionism, New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world, a transformation which culminated in Rauschenberg winning the coveted Grand Prize at the 1964 Venice Biennale. Tomkins doesn't concentrate solely on Rauschenberg's part in this watershed. He frequently deviates from the course of Rauschenberg's life and career to provide mini-biographies of many of the influential artists from whom Rauschenberg drew influence or with whom he interacted, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Frank Stella.
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