Robert Rauschenberg | HOW TO SEE the artist with Brice Marden


I first met Rauschenberg through Dorothea
Rockburne. and I went out and I was going around openings, just looking for people and
telling them that I needed a job. And Dorothea said, “Oh, there might be something
where I work.” And she didn’t say where she worked. So she said, “Be here,” And it was Bob’s. And this is, you know, Robert Rauschenberg. He was a big deal. But you’re there
making coffee, you know, and fending people off on the telephone. And I was very good at that, I could pick
up the phone and I could identify, you know, “Oh, Ileana,” you know? And he would go, you know, he answered “no.” I was Bob’s assistant from the late 60’s
and I had the job for about four years. It was the longest I ever had a job. I had to set this painting up for Marcello
Mastroianni or…I can’t remember…it was either Julie Christie or Fae Dunaway. And they were supposedly interested in.. but
he just looked totally bored. I mean, the way he always looked. Lots of people would just, like, drop by. It was a very relaxed sort of situation. People had coffee and drinks and he had this
big iron stove and you know, there was a kitchen table and, you know, a couple counters and
the phone. I mean…there are a lot of young artists
hanging out at the house. I mean there are a lot of young artists hanging
out at the house. some days there’d be a lot of dancers, like
Yvonne…and Yvonne Rainer or Lucinda Childs. And then another day, there’d be painters,
like Alex Hay. And I remember Alex working on some big projects, I mean, he was, like, very supportive of younger
artists and very generous. My job, basically, was I was supposed to make
it so that he could just walk in the room and start working. I rarely saw him work. I mean, it seemed to me, at that time, he
was working mostly at night. And things would just sort of appear, you
know. I had never seen, before or since, someone
concentrated so intensely. I mean, he was just like, “Look at these things,”
and you could tell he was working out how they could be working. And, you know, he was working. After he did white painting, he did black
paintings. These were very plain… I mean, to show that at that time was pretty
radical. The story was that Newman objected to them
so they didn’t get shown in the Betty Parsons Show. Barnett Newman was an abstract expressionist. Basically, one of the first minimalists, and
a giant personality, and a giant painter. And if Newman was objected to it, they must’ve
been pretty radical Bob wanted to re-do his White Painting project. I mean, he had done it, and then most of the
panels were used up in Combines that he did. He just used those canvases in other projects
he was working on. So they didn’t exist anymore. basically, you know, but we stretched it out,
we got canvas that was very close to the canvas that he had originally used. And he said, “When you paint them…just make
sure that the paint doesn’t show. I mean, there’s no expression, there’s no
brushstroke, just…make it totally anonymous.” The whole point was that anybody can make
them. You know, that was… I mean, that’s the way he felt about it. And this was like in, you know, the minimalist
thing was starting up and I always thought, it was like, “Bob,” such-and-so, wanted to
do, like, show he’d been there or, you know, keep his finger in the pie or whatever. Why is Rauschenberg important? He opens it up. He’s pointing out the importance of art, and
yet at the same time, he’s leaving himself in a position to explore unpretentiously. And
it’s like there’s no pretense, just incredible intelligence. It’s an intelligence that is between art and
life. But also, I see collage as a big influence. there’s an immediacy about collage. The paint in a lot of Bob’s paintings, they’re
like, collage elements. There was a certain kind of imagery that can
get really complex in Rauschenberg’s. You know, I mean, you say, “Oh yeah, there’s
the wheel, yeah. There’s a bicycle, there’s…” He had all this stuff he really liked, you
know, was really drawn to. When he wants to put it together, he can really
put it together. when he first got some money, he bought a
car and drove the whole coast of Eastern United States, looking for some place to go or to
be. I remember, you know, one day he just got
this call and it was from an agent in Captiva, Sanibel, Florida. And he went down the next, you know, couple
of days, would look at the property and decided to go for it. He got the place, you know, it was a house
on the beach. And then just started building it up. And then finally he just came back once and
said, you know, “I’m letting you all go.” He said, “None of you need this job anymore.” And he was really right.

5 Replies to “Robert Rauschenberg | HOW TO SEE the artist with Brice Marden”

  1. the piece at 5:44, I have adored it since the first time I saw it. can someone please tell me what it's called?

  2. I remember one time in particular when I was younger. I went with my dad (one of many times) to the studio so he could work. Mr Rauschenberg was laying on the floor with a drink in hand looking at one of his pieces that he was working on. I went and sat on the floor with him and he asked me something I didn't understand. Most things Mr Rauschenberg said were hard to understand. He thought on such a different level. Anyhow, he gave that intoxicating smile and laugh after my response. Then he looked back at his work, got up and did a couple things on it. I like to think he incorporated my response into that piece.

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