When Robert Rauschenberg died in 2008 at the age of 82, he left behind one of the most diverse and respected bodies of artwork produced in the 20th century. Known largely for his painting and sculpture, he also dabbled in printmaking and performance art. Sometimes he went so far as to combine these media into a single unified work.
Photography was one of Rauschenberg’s greatest passions and unsung talents. While studying at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College in the 1940s he seriously considered becoming a photographer rather than a painter. Although he ultimately favoured the brush—the established tool of serious artists—he never lost his love for photography, and often incorporated photographic images into his artworks. “I think a painting is more like the real world if it’s made out of the real world,” he once said.
Many of his early photographs have survived, but have been largely overlooked until recently. To celebrate their discovery, a new book called “Robert Rauschenberg: Photographs 1949-1962” will be released on October 31st. The collection includes rare portraits of contemporaries such as Cy Twombly—who is seen standing among Roman relics in 1952 (pictured top)—and Jasper Johns, as well as streetscapes and some startling images recorded while Rauschenberg was travelling as a young man.
The Foundation has also set up an installation at their project space in Manhattan. Selected photographs are being projected onto their building for public viewing from noon to 9pm every day until October 3rd. For an artist who used the grit of life in his work, the cityscape makes for a perfect backdrop.
"Robert Rauschenberg: Photographs 1949-1962" will be published by D.A.P./Schirmer/Mosel. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Project Space is at 455 W. 19th Street, New York City.