PRINT December 1974

Rauschenberg and the Materialized Image

HER REACTION SEVERAL YEARS AGO to the essay by Leo Steinberg had been, “Well, I know he may be right in several respects . . . but Rauschenberg?!” In her question, italics included, was the unspoken comparison between the course of Steinberg’s argument and the kind of misdirected zeal that led Baudelaire to present, as the exemplar of a painter who could capture the “heroism of modern life,” Constantin Guys. For Steinberg had been addressing what he saw as a radical change in the esthetic premises of contemporary art, a change that he called a “shift from nature to culture.” Focusing on the kind of orientation that a picture declares itself to have to the upright body of the man who views it, Steinberg had been pointing to something that had occurred in the art of the late 1950s and early 1960s, something that was most conspicuous and thorough-going in the art of Robert Rauschenberg.1


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