Artwork of the month - March 98
Artwork of the Month Archive

Robert Rauschenberg - TrophyII (for Teeny and Marcel Duchamp)  1960
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG American, b. 1925 Trophy II (for Teeny and Marcel Duchamp)  1960
oil, charcoal, paper, fabric, metal on canvas, drinking glass, metal chain, spoon, necktie
Collection Walker Art Center
Gift of the T.B. Walker Foundation, 1970

I find [Marcel Duchamp's life and work a constant inspiration. . . . His Bicycle Wheel has always struck me as one of the most beautiful pieces of sculpture I've ever seen.
 --Robert Rauschenberg

During the 1950s, Robert Rauschenberg socialized with the group of artists known as the Abstract Expressionists and even participated in exhibitions they organized. However, it was another group of artists whose experimental approaches to dance, music, and the visual arts had the greatest impact on his work. Marcel Duchamp was one of the most significant of these. Duchamp changed the course of 20th-century art when, in the early part of the century, he developed the notion of the "readymade," a sculpture made by only slightly manipulating a found object.

In the early 1950s, inspired by Duchamp, Rauschenberg devised his own radical new form, blending two-dimensional collage techniques with three-dimensional found objects on painted surfaces. Definable neither as sculpture nor painting, these works were dubbed "combines" by the artist to describe their interdisciplinary formal roots. Using found objects, photographs, and paint, the artist considered himself "a collaborator with objects." In this way, he sought to avoid excessive autobiographical readings and instead refers to the dynamics of the urban landscape.

Trophy II is one of a series of five combines, all called "trophies," which alluded to the unconventional creative spirit of artists whose work Rauschenberg greatly admired. The others honored in this way were dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Jean Tinguely, composer John Cage, and painter Jasper Johns.

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