Robert Rauschenberg's Queer Modernism: Decoration, Theatricality and Camp in the Combines, 1953--59

By Thomas Frederick Folland

Robert Rauschenberg's painted, sculptural assemblages of chanced on items, photographic reproductions, print and upholstery fabrics have bothered artwork heritage of their refusal to yield any coherency of shape or that means. Monogram , 1955-59, is without doubt one of the final of Robert Rauschenberg's major "Combines," and it really is no exception: it really is an outlandish concoction that includes a filled angora goat squeezed via a rubber tire and status on a wooden platform of collaged fabric. it sort of feels to be, in reality, a comic story. The paint-smeared snout of the goat is attribute of the gestural abstraction of the recent York institution, yet instead of flattened out onto an expanse of canvas, the brushwork is the outermost element of a truly theatrical and heterogeneous assemblage of came across gadgets. might it now not be argued, in spite of the fact that, that this "joke" may perhaps actually be a part of a bigger problem to modernism that constituted whatever way more severe? That problem is argued in my dissertation to be a queer critique of the tradition of modernism within the postwar decade of the 1950s.

The greater target of this dissertation is to re-read mid-century modernism and its narratives that experience coalesced round this era. Navigating in the course of the predominate strands of Rauschenberg scholarship, this dissertation seeks to problematize the mostly postmodern analyzing of Rauschenberg, within which his work's seeming illegibility has lengthy been obvious as a critique of modernist illustration. however it additionally questions the hot new wave of paintings heritage that has sought to find fastened constructions of homosexual id in Rauschenberg's paintings via a conventional iconographical method. Mobilizing either the questions of illegibility and identification, Rauschenberg's creative perform is outlined queerly as a kind of resistance to dominant modes of subjectivity inaugurated during the painterly discourse of the recent York college. Weaving the tropes of decorativeness, theatricality and a camp aesthetic via a variety of and overlapping groupings of Combines produced throughout the Fifties, Rauschenberg's modernism is redefined as a queer one.

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Yet while Johns used to be more youthful and shared little in universal with the recent York college, and Twombly spending a lot of the Nineteen Fifties overseas till he truly moved to Rome, Rauschenberg was once even more inveigled with this team to such an quantity that it'd be precious to place him as a queer summary Expressionist. If he was once, in his paintings, proof against the "the heroicization of masculine display," it got here at a value as Andrew Perchuk argued in an essay entitled "Pollock and Postwar Masculinity. " fifty four Such adherences to the abstractly recapitulated norms of gender identification "valorized convinced artists and sure forms of creative productions, making a coherent yet inevitably proscribed examining of postwar American artwork, with seen effects for For a dialogue of the overall weather of a threatened postwar masculine identification see Andrew Perchuk, "Pollock and Postwar Masculinity," within the Masculine Masquerade, ed. , Andrew Perchuk and Helaine Posner, (Cambridge, Mass. : MIT visible Arts heart, 1995), 31-42. one hundred and one those who couldn't or wouldn't perform it. " The shy away from the gang with whom he had formerly sought identity, or dis-identification because the case could have been, and his expanding expert involvement with Cage and Cunningham in addition to sexual relationships with Twombly and Johns, observed him turning his recognition an increasing number of in the direction of the summary Expressionist photograph aircraft. certainly the opposite facet of this narrative has been to argue that Rauschenberg used to be extra in keeping with summary Expressionism than he used to be out of step with it. Tworkov himself asserted that, to his brain, Rauschenberg was once "doing a lot an identical thing.. . simply went much additional. " As a lot as he can have appeared to posture towards anti-painting, he was once a great deal invested in it, relatively whilst he lower back from Europe within the spring of 1953 and commenced the pink work. In a letter to Jack Tworkov from Europe throughout the Fall of 1952, Rauschenberg complained of the paintings scene in Rome and that there "is totally not anything in portray happening. " He went directly to write, "I particularly am lonesome for MY portray existence so if i do know anything of what is occurring it supplies me the way to contemplate it. " fifty seven but when it used to be certainly gesture and its heroic percentages that constituted the lingua franca of the discussions round portray that happened on the membership, and afterwards on the Cedar Tavern, Rauschenberg stood dealing with an opposing course, as he defined. it should take his newly shaped club within the Cage workforce to formulate that competition fifty five Ibid. , forty two. fifty six The Calvin Tomkins Papers, IV. C. four. , The Museum of recent artwork files, big apple. fifty seven Rauschenberg Letter to Jack Tworkov, The Jack Tworkov Papers, The Jack Tworkov property, ny. 102 in a sequence of canvases that turned the purple work, starting with the position of colour— "They even assigned seriousness to yes colors," he complained—embracing its arbitrariness instead of its mythic and ethical referentiality.

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