ALMOST 30 YEARS after Robert Rauschenberg hung his now-famous paint-encrusted bed on a gallery wall, Jessica Stockholder hitched a mattress to the side of a garage, painted it red, and initiated a practice that, if nothing else, appreciably strains dominant artistic protocols.

Stockholder’s work since then—gangling installations and sculptural combines characterized by a slapdash facture and hands-on approach to materials—has, in fact, been greeted by a fair amount of head-scratching: a litany of reservations from “arty” to “willfully idiosyncratic,” not to mention misunderstandings about the iconographic significance of the recognizable found components she employs and misconceptions about her relationship to a range of previous avant-garde strategies.

The significance of Rauschenberg’s gesture hinges, in no small measure, on whether we see his “synthesis” of an essentially European Dadaist

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