UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY
California State University, East Bay
Artist Citizen: Posters for a Better World
October 28, 2004 through January 22, 2005
Opening Reception: Wednesday October 27, 2004 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Closed November 25 -- 27, and December 15 -- January 3, 2005
Rauschenberg is one of the most respected artists alive.
This is the first exhibition of this aspect of his work.
All these original posters are from the artist's own collection.
They reveal an under-appreciated aspect of Rauschenberg's deep social consciousness.
Rauschenberg has been called the man who turned contemporary art on its head. Born in 1925, and maturing in the 1950s, he rapidly became, and he remains, one of the most widely admired artists alive. He gave the second half of the 20th century new ways to think about art and life. Indeed, his most famous statement is: I try to act in that gap between [art & life]. Before Rauschenberg, most people thought of art and life as very different things. He made us re-think that assumption. Before Rauschenberg, painting and sculpture were two different things; he joined them in works he called combines. He also developed innovative collage techniques which he used to make some of the most striking images of our time images that connect us dynamically with life, death, and hope. At a time when high art was abstract, he brought daily life back into art. In the process, he encouraged what he calls openmindedness. His early work of the 1950s was only the beginning of a lifetime of integrative thinking. He went on to make pioneering explorations in fields as diverse as printmaking, poster-making, photography, theater design, performance art, electronic art, and radical forms of collaborative art. Along the way, he reminded the art world of the beauty that can be seen in ordinary realities, including objects and images usually discarded in a highly materialistic society where many see only what they are told to see.
During the 1940s & ‘50s, most major American artists were involved primarily with self expression. There was little engagement with socio-political problems outside the small world of studios, galleries and museums. Rauschenberg thought differently, and has been socially conscious all of his career. At the highest level of integrative thinking is Rauschenberg’s vision of the organic connection between self and other, between every individual and humanity as a whole.
He has said: "... artists must be engaged in determining the fate of the earth...," and "... now it’s up to the artists to wage peace." He does not simply talk the talk; he walks the walk. He ate with Martin Luther King, Jr., and read King’s words in public. He made fundraising prints for President Carter. His Change, Inc. foundation provides housing and studio space for impoverished artists. This exhibition focuses on posters Rauschenberg has made for projects with direct public benefit. Included are projects that support Artists Rights, Earth Day, the United Nations, campaigns against Apartheid, Nuclear Armament, Overpopulation, and War, as well as his famous ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange) project in which he collaborated with local artists in many nations to help activate budding efforts towards contemporary expression during the 1980s and early ‘90s. In the process, he opened gateways for the growth of contemporary art in Russia, China, and Tibet where it had been prohibited for years.
Gallery Director Lanier Graham said: "It is a special privilege to present an overview of this aspect of Rauschenberg’s work for the first time. These images are vibrant evidence of how an artist can help improve the world in which we all live." Thanks to Rauschenberg, and his curator David White, we have been able to borrow these posters from the artist’s own collection. In a postmodern world short on heroes, people--especially younger artists--are thirsty for role models who offer more than a self-centered image of what artists can do in the world.