PRINT September 1997

History Printer

STROLLING THROUGH THE LOUVRE with French critic Pierre Schneider, Barnett Newman stopped before Delacroix’s grandly theatrical The Death of Sardanapalus. Newman, in his quaint American diction, conferred upon Robert Rauschenberg an art-historical pedigree: “The cut-out forms, the jumble, Guernica, even Rauschenberg is related to this. It is what in journalism we used to call ‘circus layout’: make a mix-up of the page. It’s like a three ring circus. A lot of things going on at the same time.”

Newman was right. There were a lot of things going on at the same time in Rauschenberg right from the beginning. Though he tried hard to elude the toils of art history (he always denied such obvious precursors as the Dadaists, and especially Schwitters), if we peer closely enough at Rauschenberg’s origins, we can see that his rejection of history was paradoxically an acknowledgment of it. Consider a

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