Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde

Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde

by Branden W. Joseph
     
 

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Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important visual artists of the second half of the twentieth century. In Random Order, Branden Joseph examines Rauschenberg's work in the context of the American neo-avant-garde.

One of the foundations of his study is Rauschenberg's professional relationship with experimental composer John Cage. From the moment of

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Overview

Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important visual artists of the second half of the twentieth century. In Random Order, Branden Joseph examines Rauschenberg's work in the context of the American neo-avant-garde.

One of the foundations of his study is Rauschenberg's professional relationship with experimental composer John Cage. From the moment of their encounter at Black Mountain College in 1952, Joseph argues, Rauschenberg and Cage initiated a new avant-garde project, one that approached the idea of difference not in terms of negation but as a positive force. Claiming that Rauschenberg's work cannot be understood solely from the standpoint of the Frankfurt School — whose theories have dominated discussions of avant-garde and neo-avant-garde aesthetics — Joseph turns to the theoretical positions of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida. Rauschenberg's neo-avant-garde was not a simple repetition of earlier avant-garde movements, Joseph shows, but a series of practices that opposed the rise of postwar spectacle,commodification, and mass conformity.

Beginning with the White Paintings, Joseph examines Rauschenberg's artistic development from 1951 to 1971. He looks at the black paintings, Red Paintings, Elemental Paintings and Elemental Sculptures, Combines and Combine paintings, transfer drawings and silkscreens,performances, and explorations in art and technology. Joseph's study not only offers new interpretations of Rauschenberg's work, but also deepens our understanding of the entire neo-avant-garde project.

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Editorial Reviews

Art Bulletin - Alex Potts
...succeeds in highlighting an anarchic and gratuitously radical streak in Rauschenberg's early practice that is worth attending to, one that is neither a repeat of earlier avant-garde gesturings nor simply an accommodation to the values and commodifying mechanisms of postwar American consumer society.

Burlington Magazine - James Lawrence
The strongest passages deal with individual works in depth and with remarkable sensitivity to context. A chapter devoted to Rauschenberg's live performances is outstanding.

Modernism/Modernity - Ales Erjavec
Branden W. Joseph has embarked upon the ambitious project of reconstructing the essential part of Robert Rauschenberg's oeuvre...persuasively shown that Rauschenberg, together with [John] Cage, represents a specific and distinct instance of the American neo-avant-garde.

From the Publisher

"...succeeds in highlighting an anarchic and gratuitously radical streak in Rauschenberg's early practice that is worth attending to, one that is neither a repeat of earlier avant-garde gesturings nor simply an accommodation to the values and commodifying mechanisms of postwar American consumer society." Alex
Potts
Art Bulletin

The MIT Press

"The strongest passages deal with individual works in depth and with remarkable sensitivity to context. A chapter devoted to Rauschenberg's live performances is outstanding." James Lawrence Burlington
Magazine

The MIT Press

"Those interested in the interrelationship of various modern arts genres will find this book especially illuminating." Carol J. Binkowski
Library Journal

The MIT Press

Library Journal
One of the leading artists of the avant-garde, Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925) has had an active career since World War II, yielding a widely diverse assortment of paintings, assemblage, and performance art projects. Although past observers of the art scene have found it difficult to describe and assess his prolific, eclectic output, these two volumes succeed in providing, from different perspectives, a clearer understanding of this often enigmatic man and his achievements. Joseph (art history, Univ. of California) closely examines Rauschenberg's work in a detailed and scholarly view of the artist's career from 1951 to 1971, as seen through the context of such works as the White Paintings, Rebus, and Canyon-"Combine" paintings created from varied materials-as well as through his close professional association with composer John Cage. Joseph considers Rauschenberg in relation to the neo-avant-garde movement itself, as well as in respect to the sociological, philosophical, and artistic frames of reference that helped to define it. Those interested in the interrelationship of various modern arts genres will find this book especially illuminating. With 103 illustrations. Breaking Boundaries views Rauschenberg's life and creative output with special emphasis on the influences derived from the urban environment, the artist's creative methods and studio surroundings, collaborations with choreographer Trisha Brown, and the massive and long-term Overseas Culture Interchange project. Mattison (art history, Lafayette Coll.) presents a select group of works for in-depth analysis as the key to the art and the artist. The content and style of this lavish, oversized work, with its many photographs and illustrations (72 black-and-white, 32 color), will appeal to academic audiences yet at the same time is accessible to the general reader with an interest in the subject. Libraries owning Mary Lynne Kotz's Rauschenberg: Art and Life (1990) may want to update their collections with these new volumes and with Leo Steinberg's more recent Encounters with Rauschenberg. Recommended for large collections specializing in the arts.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262600712
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
04/30/2007
Series:
October Books
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Crary
Branden Joseph's strikingly original study of Robert Rauschenberg will also be influential as a remarkable cultural history of the intersection of art,media, and technology in the 1960s. Among the book's great merits are its stunning de-familiarization of a well known artist's work and its impressive reconsideration of the political stakes in the aesthetic practices of the period.

Miwon Kwon
Set against today's fast-paced, cut-and-paste art spectacles,Rauschenberg's collages, combines, art and technology experiments, and multimedia performances may seem old hat, a bunch of outmoded forms and tamed ideas. But through impeccable archival research and a detailed rereading of Rauschenberg's early works and the context of their emergence and immediate reception, Branden Joseph revivifies the radical spirit of the old. Random Order's recasting of the not yet canonical artist as a Deleuzian deconstructionist and an inheritor of Artaud's theater of cruelty is bound to be controversial among not only Rauschenberg scholars but also historians of the postwar neo-avant-garde. All the better to encourage a reimagining of the present.

Eduardo Cadava
Scrupulously documented and brilliantly argued, Random Order is the most extensive and probing understanding we have of the aesthetic,historical, and political stakes of Rauschenberg's neo-avant-garde artistic project.

Like Rauschenberg's 'mole archaeologist,' Joseph unearths the network of artists and theorists that countersigned the artist's desire to enact, in each of his works, not only what it means to encounter a work of art but also how to use it as a weapon to transform our conception of art and the relations in which we live. In the process,he gives us a stunning analysis of the artistic process itself — a process that, as he so beautifully demonstrates, always carries us — with random but unrelenting force — beyond ourselves.

Alexander Alberro
Reynolds has revitalized not only an important and little-researched moment in Smithson's career, but also — and perhaps more significantly — a crucial event in the history of art practice in the U.S. and beyond.

From the Publisher
"Reynolds has revitalized not only an important and little-researched moment in Smithson's career, but also — and perhaps more significantly — a crucial event in the history of art practice in the U.S. and beyond."—Alexander Alberro,School of Art & Art History, University of FloridaPlease note: Slight change to author's title.

"Scrupulously documented and brilliantly argued, *Random Order* is the most extensive and probing understanding we have of the aesthetic, historical, and political stakes of Rauschenberg's neo-avant-garde artistic project. Like Rauschenberg's 'mole archaeologist,' Joseph unearths the network of artists and theorists that countersigned the artist's desire to enact, in each of his works, not only what it means to encounter a work of art but also how to use it as a weapon to transform our conception of art and the relations in which we live. In the process,he gives us a stunning analysis of the artistic process itself — a process that, as he so beautifully demonstrates, always carries us — with random but unrelenting force — beyond ourselves."—Eduardo Cadava, Princeton University, author of *Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History*

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Meet the Author

Branden W. Joseph is Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and an editor of the journal Grey Room (MIT Press).

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