Robert Rauschenberg was an American painter, renowned printmaker, and graphic artist whose earlier works are regarded as being the inspiration for the Pop art movement of the 1950s, as well as the majority of postwar movements within the arts following Abstract Expressionism. Rauschenberg was known for directly challenging the modernist aesthetic that proved popular during the late 1940s and early 1950s, believing that “painting relates to both art and life.” Rauschenberg's art style highlighted the notion of inclusion: while his works encompassed a broad range of subjects, styles, materials, and techniques, he steadfastly refused to affiliate himself with any specific genre or movement. Throughout his career, Rauschenberg collaborated with individuals from a number of disciplines ranging from performers, printmakers, engineers, writers, artists, and artisans.
Born in 1925 in Port Arthur, Texas as Milton Ernest “Robert” Rauschenberg, he went on to change his name to Bob and subsequently Robert, in the 1940s. Rauschenberg studied to be a pharmacist before being drafted into the Navy in 1943, where he served as a neuro-psychiatric technician. During his time in the Navy, Rauschenberg visited a gallery, thus spurring his interest in the arts. Through the G.I. Bill, Rauschenberg attended the Kansas City Art Institute. Additionally, he attended the Académie Julian in Paris and studied photography and painting at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and at the Arts Student League in New York City.
Rauschenberg's best-known works are his Combines, pieces composed of everyday objects and images that blurred the lines between painting and sculpture by placing them within the realm of abstract art. Through the Combines, Rauschenberg bridged the gap between two artistic mediums, between the notions of handmade and readymade, and between “the gestural brushstroke and the mechanically reproduced image.” This period in the early 1950s in tandem with his relationship and creative exchange with Jasper Johns was thought to have altered the trajectory of modern art.
His primary focus between 1984 -1991 was the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI). This project was a “a tangible expression of his long-term commitment to human rights and to the freedom of artistic expression” The project traveled to Tibet, China, Mexico, Cuba, Malaysia, and ended at the National Gallery of Art in Washington; he created exhibitions of his works in each country incorporating the aspects of the cultures and art-practices that he was inspired by, to stimulate a dialogue and reinforce his belief that art is “a catalyst for positive social change.”
Rauschenberg relocated from New York City to Captiva Island, Florida in the fall of 1970, where he remained until his death in 2008.
How Artist Robert Rauschenberg 'Rewrote the Rules of the Game' | Christie's
Robert Rauschenberg - Pop Art Pioneer Full BBC Documentary 2016