Robert Rauschenberg: Botanical Vaudeville

27 July - 2 October 2011. Tues - Sun, 10am - 5.30pm

The American artist Jasper Johns (b.1935) once said of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) that he had invented more than any artist since Picasso. Rauschenberg has altered the cultural landscape and continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary artists. Robert Rauschenberg Botanical Vaudeville was the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist to take place in the UK in thirty years – and it featured thirty seven works made between 1982 and 1998.

Installation views, Robert Rauschenberg: Botanical Vaudeville, Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2010. Images by Michael Wolchover

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Press Release

The American artist Jasper Johns (b.1935) once said of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) that he had invented more than any artist since Picasso. Rauschenberg has altered the cultural landscape and continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary artists. Robert Rauschenberg Botanical Vaudeville was the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist to take place in the UK in thirty years – and it featured thirty seven works made between 1982 and 1998.

During this time, Rauschenberg was exploring the reflective, textural, sculptural and thematic effects of metal, glass and other reflective surfaces in several series of works. All were represented here, and the paintings and sculptures on display varied from the highly polished glamorous metallic works from the Shiner and Borealis series that celebrate energy and motion, to the Kabal American Zephyr and Gluts series which represent Rauschenberg’s; fascination with the discarded object.  He once stated: I think painting is more like the real world when it is made out of the real world. These works in particular benefit from being shown in natural light which is such a feature of exhibitions at Inverleith House, revealing their true colour – enhanced by multiple reflections of the viewer and garden which become part of the work.

Rauschenberg had his first one-man show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York exactly 60 years ago (in 1951) and he was the first American artist to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale, in 1964 (one year after his first retrospective exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York at the age of 38). Whilst Rauschenberg is justifiably known for his ground breaking work of the 1950’s and 60’s; in particular his Combines and collaborations with the composer John Cage and dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham, his work from the period represented here was relatively little known and never before been shown in the UK.

The exhibition title Botanical Vaudeville is that given to one of the works (from 1991) displayed in the last room. The documentary film Robert Rauschenberg – Creative Genius (Ameriacan Masters), directed by Karen Thomas (2004, 60mins) s being screened continuously throughout the exhibition in the lower- ground floor gallery. Botanical Vaudeville follows previous exhibitions at Inverleith House by Rauschenberg’s close friends and collaborators; Cy Twombly (2002), John Cage and Merce Cunningham (2007)

The exhibition was curated by David White and Ealan Wingate, with project co-ordination by Thomas Buehler. We are indebted to the Rauschenberg Studio, New York and Gagosian Gallery for their generous assistance in making the exhibition possible.

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)