Englewood venue snags major art exhibition

Rauschenberg: Reflections and Ruminations now at Museum of Outdoor Arts


Starting with the glass entry doors at Museum of Outdoor Arts, Robert Rauschenberg’s work impacts a visitor — and it continues as one strolls through the large gallery at the Englewood Civic Center, and loops through a reprocessed office space. Then one reverses directions and heads down a fascinating hallway to two more spaces filled with the distinctive American artist’s works. MOA staff, with curator Dan Jacobs, has worked on pulling off this exhibit for a number of years and we are fortunate that it’s finally open through June 13.

Rauschenberg (1925-2008) painted, printed, photographed, drew, sculpted, assembled, experimented — and combined techniques as he wished. It’s especially appropriate that his exuberant work is exhibited during Mo’ Print (Month of Printmaking, March 2020) in the area, since his explosive works are a dramatic contrast to the smaller, tighter, more controlled images we tend to expect from a traditional printmaker.

Museum Director Cynthia Madden Leitner’s catalog foreword explains a connection: “I met Robert Rauschenberg at his home on Captiva Island in Florida in the early 1980s.” Her parents were friends of this charismatic man … The title of the exhibit: “Reflections and Ruminations,” refers to titles of works and the highly polished surfaces that carry some images. Jacobs may have started with John Madden, the director’s father, who owned several pieces, but the search took him across the country, as well as locating works at DU and CU.

Works on reflective surfaces seem to include the visitor’s reflection as part of the art in prints on aluminum, brass or polished steel, and one realizes the title of the exhibit plays with one’s perceptions …

A photograph to the left as one enters presents a profile of a good-looking man staring off into the distance — no doubt mentally picturing wild bursts of color and big strokes of brush or other implement. The outline of Rauschenberg’s hand also brings one in closer to an extraordinary man.

There are repeats of images such as skyscrapers and tires and cabbages … these images continue to his last series: “Lotus,” continuing into 2008, the year he died. He took photos himself — and used other images freely, including some historic ones.

Works include paintings, lithographs and “Combines,” one of which, “Autobiography,” includes an image of the artist with a parachute flying behind him as he skates forward …

“Accident,” (1963) included in this exhibit, is well known — the lithograph stone he was using cracked as he was creating the image to be printed and he just went ahead and completed the work, including that crack. The edition of repeats of this image shows slight differences as the stone shifted a bit, according to the catalog copy by curator Jacobs.

A traveler, with concern for environmental and human issues, Rauschenberg interacted with the world as he soaked up images. He started ROCI, the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Exchange and images from the Soviet leg tried to show similarities in cultures. ”Soviet/American Array VII” shows New York and Moscow apartment buildings in a collection of other images.

Each grouping of works has a block of wall copy, rather than a label on each painting, so a visitor may want to focus in on each block of words for better interpretation of the exhibit.

“Reflections and Ruminations” offers more than 50 original works by a man who was very influential in his own world and well beyond. The visitor can try to follow thought processes, changes in the use of repeated images and a variety of techniques. A work unto itself is “Barney Google Glut,” 1987, assembled metal collage. Is it a sort of rhino? An entirely imaginary beast? Or should we settle for an abstracted sculptural image? (I really wanted to stroke its back.)

MOA offers a special opportunity to art lovers during the duration of this exhibit. It’s a “don’t miss.”


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