Port Arthur, 1925 - Captiva Island, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg

Although a leading exponent of post-war avant-garde art, he always stayed on the outside of any group or movement of the time. Through his works, he explored the world of art by going beyond the limits of painting – while always remaining a painter – introducing material elements to it in a fusion that he called combine paintings. On his first visit to Italy, in late 1952, he came to the Roman studio of one of the artists who had most influenced him, Alberto Burri. He was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the 32nd Venice Biennale, in 1964. In one of his first works, Bed (1955), he created an installation using an actual life-size bed daubed with colour and stained with blotches, drippings and mixtures to make it lived-in. Presenting everyday items or scrap as works of art or as elements of a composition was not completely new: the Dadaists were already doing it in the 1920s. Now, no longer with any iconoclastic or polemical intent, Rauschenberg simply wanted to affirm everyday reality: that of mass-produced objects, road signs, advertising posters and other mass-media products. This idea was also behind his work for Terrae Motus – West-ho go (Glut), a metal assembly with detritus from the consumer society.