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The Life and Work of Robert Rauschenberg

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            Rauschenberg art work of combines has been seen as a depiction of an allegory by both his proponents and critics. His unique work is exemplified by combines which when viewed from the typical aspect of art in terms of composition or even shape can give a wrong impression and message but when you change the perspective, new messages and information can be deciphered although they are not ordered. Being a student of Dada, his work was greatly influenced by collage and assemblages of Kurt which later led him to say and believe that art was interwoven with life which forms an intricate association (Craig 67)[1].

            The allegory that is seen in Rauschenberg work has been described by several authors through their own perceptions of the several master pieces. For allegory to be recognized, one has to understand it, its manifestations and what it stands for. It does not need to conform to the artistic definition but it can be attributed to be a procedure or an abstract idea that sends out different signals to those who behold art. Monogram is one such piece of art that has taken people aback due to its ingenious composition[2]. The assemblage of the different parts which seem to have little if any connection can only be a depiction of division. According to Graig Owens[3] allegory is supposed to achieve a double purpose where apart from sending the casual message, another underlying and the more important message is passed on as well. This signal should be impulsive whereby it is a postmodern representation of the old times and ideas that had magnanimous significance in peoples’ hearts and cultures. The connection of allegory and the contemporary work of the monogram occur through the generation of imagery by assemblage of those odd objects into an image that is hard to conceive the message behind it when one sees it[4].

            Allegory is concerned with depiction of occurrence in space or through a sequel of events in a structure which points to the fact that the end result should be a ritualistic happening (Graig 7).[5] The combinations of the different things in the monogram do not show unity but rather division despite the inclusion of a tyre and a goat together. On the other hand, the monogram can be a depiction of the childhood of the artist who might have grown near a tyre factory and also a rebellion from the norms of beauty.

            Another great work done by Rauschenberg was the black market combine.[6] A strategy that Rauschenberg employed here was to defamiliarize perception where the old habit of scrutiny would be replaced by a mere scanning of art due to changing times (Haber 1).[7] This is important in bringing out the disguised allegory behind every work of art as it is the aim of an artist to pass across crucial message in the course of entertaining the audience. Rauschenberg was no stranger to such tactic though in his part, he took his game a notch higher by combining different forms of art and abstract ideas that seemed almost mundane. Krauss is of the opinion that ‘Random Order’ is a technique that is employed extensively by Rauschenberg to bring out allegory especially in the black market piece of art (Rosalind 95).[8] In this art, a viewer interacted freely with the artist whereby the viewer was invited to choose a card from a suitcase on the floor and replace it with other messages on a cardboard that had a arrow with a caption saying one way. The interaction of the viewer and the artist signifies the concept of black market.[9]

Q2. Similarities and differences between pop art and combines.

            An obvious similarity between the two is that the inventors of both styles can be described as being neo Dada whereby they get their inspiration from there and seek to present art in different forms. It must be noted that both are great styles of art that employ allegory to some extent to put across their message. For combines, it relies more on allegory through its assemblage of ideas and objects that create a picture that needs to be decoded by a viewer. Their close relation is further shown when the two artistic styles arose and dominated the world.

Around early 60’s and late 50’s great artists sought to develop their own unique stylistic devices of putting their messages across in somehow subtle way. This consequently shows that the two styles are post modern inventories and perfection of art that break away from the traditional presentation art through painting or sculpture (Rosalind 86).[10] The respective inventors think out of the box and give their audience something new and experience the arts on a personal level and people are always proud to associate with it. This demystifies the enigma associated with ancient art which had a no direct connection with the viewer whereby the viewer, artist and the piece of art were on different levels and although a minimal connection existed among the three entities, it was not that easy to deduce at the first instant (Edward 197).[11]

            The two contemporary art styles are a representation of real objects which sometimes people mistake real objects for real meaning (Haber 1).[12] The problem is not the common mistake of mistaken identity but how to avoid such ominous mistakes and if they happen, how they can be avoided. Many of these arts that are in form of painting, or assemblage of different paraphernalia that are in real life size of the imagery intended to create on people’s minds and therefore a slight confusion may arise as to what the true intended meaning.

            A fundamental difference between pop art and combinations is that in pop art, the hidden meaning is not hard to decipher which makes it easy to be commercialized through advertising. Pop art is art in form which sometimes may be vulgar or explicit pictorial satire in putting forward its message but that was why it was developed to put forward messages with as little allegory as possible.[13] On the contrary the combines uniqueness is built upon its mystery of assemblage. The message intended to be passed on is intricately interwoven in allegory such that it is not apparent as to the initial purpose of the artist (Haber 1).[14]

            Sometimes pop art has been described as ‘NO art’ where the no is an iconographic satire of the message that helps to disseminate information in a subtle way through taming and toning down the tone (Arthur 581).[15] This can be seen in Boris Lurie’s[16] work called les lions (the lions) which is about nude figures of ladies juxtaposed on a lat canvass surface which bring out the theme of terror but in a mild way. When you compare les lions with the monogram which is a combination, then combines become complicated and not vulgar just to say but the least.


[1] Craig, Owen. “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism.” October 12.1 (1980): 67-86.

[2] One of the most famous combines consisting of abstract paintings on a horizontal plane and on top of it is a head of an angora goat that has a tyre wound around its neck.

[3] In his text of Allegorical impulse, he states that any piece of art that is of the past and cannot identify itself with the present can disappear with no chances of retrieval.

[4] Owen perceives allegory as an artistic genre that should accomplish a double duty.

[5] Graig, Owen. The Allegorical Impulse pp. 7

[6] A master piece combine done in 1961 for exhibition in L’ art en mouvement

[7] “John, Haber.” Allegories of Painting. March 28. 1999. June 19. 2009.


[8] Rosalind, Krauss. “Perpetual Inventory.” October. 88.1 (1999): 86-116

[9] The title of the art Black Market signifies the presence of things in places where they do not belong.

[10]Rosalind, Krauss. “Perpetual Inventory.” October. 88.1 (1999): 86-116

[11] Edward, Kelly. “Neo- Dada: A Critique of Pop Art.” Art Journal. 23.3 (1964): 192-201

[12]“John, Haber.” Allegories of Painting. March 28. 1999. June 19. 2009.


[13] Lawrence Alloway (a pop art artist) who was defending pop art in the Art Journal article of Kelly.

[14] “John, Haber.” Allegories of Painting. March 28. 1999. June 19. 2009.


[15] Arthur, Danto. “The Art World.” The Journal of Philosophy. 61.19 (1964): 571-584

[16] Boris is a Pop art artist that has his work les lions analyzed by Kelly in the Art Journal.

Work cited

Arthur, Danto. “The Art World.” The Journal of Philosophy. 61.19 (1964): 571-584

Craig, Owen. “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism.” October 12.1 (1980): 67-86.

Edward, Kelly. “Neo- Dada: A Critique of Pop Art.” Art Journal. 23.3 (1964): 192-201

“John, Haber.” Allegories of Painting. March 28. 1999. June 19. 2009.


Rosalind, Krauss. “Perpetual Inventory.” October. 88.1 (1999): 86-116

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