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Carroll Dunham

Robert Rauschenberg’s career took off with a chapter of shock and awe followed by a forty-year-and-counting campaign for the hearts and minds of the largest possible audience. Perceptions of him evolved quickly, from the Oedipal assassin of his New York School elders to the Golden Lion of Venice and poster boy for a new kind of art-world success. After an extraordinarily productive decade, by 1965 he had begun to steer his work away from painting toward more technologically and socially engaged forms of art, and while the fruits of his increasingly collaborative labors may have left the jury of his peers uneasily out, any attempt to understand painting’s recent past and cultural role inevitably traces back to Rauschenberg—a kind of “artist zero” in the margins of whose early activities the later projects of many others were implied.

Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol have been much

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