A Commemorative Exhibition of the Works of
Featuring pieces from the UN's Tribute 21 collection
and the US Mission's ROCI collection
7 July - 20 August 2009
Palais des Nations, Mezzanine
E-Building, Door 40
Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008) was a key figure in post-war art, who merged the painterly qualities of Abstract Expressionism with a cooler emotional approach favored by the subsequent generation of Pop Artists. Rather than intending his art to convey feelings, Rauschenberg believed that the meaning of his work was open for interpretation. Combining abstract elements with depicted subjects and even inserting actual objects into his work, the artist shifted the expectations for painting; from its materials, to the space in which it is viewed. Rauschenberg ushered painting off of the wall, onto the floor or anywhere in the viewer’s space.
Rauschenberg often used chance operations to create his art, believing that external forces cultivated new and unexpected forms. Collaboration, with its unpredictable give and take, was one of the artist’s creative tools. One of his greatest collaborative endeavors was the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) project (pronounced “rocky”), a 6-year traveling exhibition celebrated in examples of the offset lithographs on view from the collection of the State Department in Geneva. In 1984, the artist, frustrated with international discord and doubting that politicians had power to help, launched a massive, self-financed operation that took him to Malaysia, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, China, Tibet, Japan, Cuba, USSR and Germany. Rauschenberg recorded in photographs and video his spontaneous encounters with new cultures and integrated these images into works made from indigenous materials found in host countries. On his journey, Rauschenberg’s ebullient personality frequently disarmed intolerant regimes, allowing him to forge international collaborations with artists and artisans and cultivate global audiences. ROCI brought new art, new experience, and goodwill to millions, spawning influential exhibitions in host countries as well as the 1991 presentation of more than two hundred works at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
In the artists own words, “I feel strong in my belief, based on my widely traveled collaborations, that a one-to-one contact through art contains potent peaceful powers, and is the most non-elitist way to share information, hopefully seducing us into creating mutual understandings for the benefit of all.”