New York

Robert Rauschenberg

Castelli Gallery, Sonnabend Gallery, Museum of Modern Art

Robert Rauschenberg’s ruminations on East and West in these Japanese clayworks, Chinese paper works, and the “Kabal American Zephyr Series” turn on a series of elaborate puns that reduce both realms to the terms of fluid mechanics, the flow of liquids and gases. The Orient, in an essentially trite but complexly conveyed notion, is a weightless, watery domain traversed by corrupting currents from the West; America is both the west wind and its cessation, the crash to earth of the previously airborne but always gravity ridden.

Hydrants, fish, scenes reflected in pools or puddles, and one claywork in particular establish the aqueous mood. Dirt Shrine: South, 1982, is a paradigm of the explorer’s intrusive encounter with the edge of the world, a diagram of reaching an impasse on land and having to travel by sea. An embossed tire tread ending in an anchorlike rock and chain extends across the

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