Sunday, June 30, 2013

A picture is worth how many of whose words? (A small homage to Robert Rauschenberg)

I return often to Rauschenberg's collages and combines, seeing in them the felt but not-yet-written stories that attend my night-thoughts, especially the tales murmured in a locked room, around the corner of a street I have never visited, behind the rustling billboards on weathered walls.

We hear of "painterly prose," but less frequently of whatever its counterpart might be:  "writerly painting," I guess.   I do not mean art that follows or presents a narrative.  I mean art that has no explicit narrative, art that may nonetheless illustrate a story or mood the artist decided to hide from the viewer...or stories the artist expected the viewer to bring to the viewing without any context or hints, no clues or aide-memoires supplied by the artist.

Rauschenberg-- who famously insisted on the right of the creator to define the meaning to be found in whatever he or she created-- is one of the Great Tricksters.  He sets out meaning in glyphs that each of his acolytes will take a lifetime to understand, strewing meaning under the bedclothes, behind the calendar's date-boxes, over the skrim of an umbrella.   Small bones, splinters, teasingly laid down, snares of paint and gypsum chips, wire and a bottle cap found on Bleecker Street...

How did he know the deep grammar of the stories I want to tell, the stories I feel wound around my bones and lurking in my lymphatic system?

[As always, all images used for purposes of commentary, not for any commercial purpose; images found on the Web.]

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