Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)
— Robert Rauschenberg, 1959
Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg is an homage to an artist who was my personal hero, and my nemesis, in my student years. He was my hero because of the infallibility of his touch, and the constancy of his ability to invent and re-invent the potency and power of visual art — to push the boundaries of what art could be. He was my nemesis because I saw him as pure genius and his every gesture as perfection — conditions that were not, I thought, possible for others to attain. But my joy and delight in his work continued and my pleasure in talking with him from time to time over the years was enormous.
Curated by Paul Schimmel, Robert Rauschenberg: Combines was shown in early 2006 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On seeing it there, and upon learning that there were no plans to film it, I asked Bob for permission to do so at the next venue, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
This elegy is dedicated to the memory of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) and to the memory of his friendship with my late husband, Earle Brown (1926-2002), whose music has been intertwined and juxtaposed here with images of the glorious Combines.
Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg has been created from footage filmed by Art21 at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles during the 2006 exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg: Combines. Among the works seen in whole or in part are Minutiae (1954); Interview (1955); Monogram (1955-59); Canyon (1959); Gift for Apollo (1959); Black Market (1961); Empire II (1961); Pantomime (1961); Ace (1962); and Gold Standard (1964).
The video is set to music composed by Earle Brown who, along with Rauschenberg, was a member of a small group of friends in the 1950s that included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Morton Feldman, Jasper Johns, and Christian Wolff, among others. In the spirit of that long-ago friendship, and in the collaborative spirit of that time and group, excerpts from the following works by Brown have been selected and collaged, with permission of The Earle Brown Music Foundation, for this video: Music for Violin, Cello, & Piano (1952); Octet I (1953); Folio and 4 Systems (1954); String Quartet (1965); New Piece (1971); and Special Events (1999).