By Stuart A. Kallen
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Despite his unique viewpoint, Rauschenberg earned little with his artistic experiments. In 1954, unable to afford expensive art materials, Rauschenberg began collecting an astonishing array of discarded objects he found in abundance in his run-down New York neighborhood. The materials included half-empty cans of house paint, crates, cloth, used signs, photographs, old magazines, machine parts, abandoned furniture, plumbing fixtures, mirrors, cork, rubber tires, and soda bottles. A neighborhood taxidermist provided Rauschenberg with preserved animals, including an Angora goat, a chicken, and a bald eagle.
Random photos clipped 52 from magazines, such as a woman kissing her young daughter and a man crying in anguish, provide an emotional element to the piece. A pair of painted leather shoes is meant to evoke feelings of loneliness or abandonment. The intimate elements of the piece act almost as a scrapbook or diary of Rauschenberg’s life. Untitled also contains some humorous elements; a stuffed Dominique hen is posed next to and stands in contrast with an elegant man dressed in a white suit. ”31 “Stupid as Life Itself” While Rauschenberg incorporated everyday objects into his combines, Claes Oldenburg used common items as models to create large sculptures.
Rather than create harmony, the contrasting pieces are meant to evoke complex emotions such as puzzlement, longing, wistfulness, sadness, elation, or even anger. The first installations were created in 1959 by American painter, performer, and conceptual artist Allan Kaprow, who invented what are now called art happenings. Happenings were singular events that featured music, photography, dance, poetry readings, paintings, light shows, and sculptures. Kaprow thought New York’s expensive, white-walled galleries were sterile and uninspiring.