Sunday, September 28, 2014

Robert Rauschenberg and his Louisiana Scions

Melic Meeting by Robert Rauschenberg (Detail)
Scraper by Keith Sonnier
He was always of the moment, anticipating every new trend while remaining much the same over the decades; Robert Rauschenberg was making pop art in the 1950s when Andy Warhol was a still a shoe illustrator. He was born in Port Arthur Texas, but in the 1940s his family moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he returned every year for family gatherings and his New Orleans-born mom's birthday. This show is a mini-reprise of Five From Louisiana, a 1977 New Orleans Museum of Art expo that also included work by Lynda Benglis, Tina Girouard, Richard Landry and Keith Sonnier--Louisiana natives prominent in New York's pivotal post-minimalist movement. Unlike minimalism's starkness, postminimal art was, like this state's primal baroque wildness, organic and curvaceous. These works complement NOMA's big, newly acquired Rauschenberg mixed media piece, Melic Meeting (pictured), while reminding us of the transformational role that Louisiana artists played in the evolution of American modernism.

Maiastra by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Fast forward to 21st century St. Claude Avenue, where we find a trove of Rauscheberg-inspired works by Generic Art Solutions (Tony Campbell and Mat Vis). Rauschenberg was an art world titan by the time he died in 2008, and his foundation maintains his 20 acre compound on Florida's Captiva Island where Campbell and Vis were recently honored with a one month residency. There they made art that embodies the inventiveness for which he, and they, are known, in works like Flight, where Campbell wearing Icarus wings is depicted in a literal leap of faith over the Gulf--an homage, perhaps. to Rauschenberg's famously inspired, if somewhat woozy, flights of fancy. The most substantial work on view is their Rauschenberg and Brancusi-based Maiastra, two bicycle frames precisely conjoined into a beautifully symmetrical "thought cycle"-- a vehicle they say "can only be ridden with ones’ imagination…unless you actually take a ride beyond the earth’s atmosphere into zero gravity." ~Bookhardt

Enjoy by Tony Campbell and Matt Vis
Robert Rauschenberg and Five from Louisiana, Through Oct. 5th, New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100;  In the Shadow of a Giant: Recent Works by Generic Art Solutions, Through Oct. 5th, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427.