Style shifting by conceptual innovator Robert Rauschenberg

RauschenbergThe familiar style-shifting pattern of conceptual innovators (finders) is just one of the typical characteristics of young geniuses that’s apparent in Robert Rauschenberg, as described in Roberta Smith’s review of a new exhibit of his works from the 1960s.

In her New York Times piece, titled “A Rarely Seen Side of a Rauschenberg Shift,”Smith describes the “a crucial turning point” that Rauschenberg had just made in the late 1950s in his shift from a three- to a two-dimensional “fusion of ready-made and manipulated material.”

Also typical of conceptual innovators is the works’ frequent references to previous artwork (“”an image of the choreographer Merce Cunningham, his close friend; and sly evocations of fellow artists like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol.”)

Smith adds, “The immediacy is thrilling; these works seem to come into being before our eyes as we trace and retrace their formation, their instantaneousness. They happen in a flash ….”

All that’s typical of conceptual innovators, so it’s no surprise that, by David Galenson’s calculations, prices and the frequency of textbook reproductions peak with works Rauschenbergs did in the early 1950s, at age 30.


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