“Hope is not enough,” artist Robert Rauschenberg said in 1984. “Generosity, socially and racially, has to be an international fact proven by attitudes and action.” Such a sentiment, one that speaks to culture’s ability to shape social thought and progress, is one that permeated much of Rauschenberg’s work and distinguishes him from other artists of his generation. Inarguably one of the most influential creative forces of the twentieth century, Rauschenberg came to prominence in the 1950s amongst avant garde movements like Abstract Expressionism, but fits squarely into none. Unlike the period’s Pollocks, Rothkos, and Alberses, whose output displayed individualized visions for objective beauty, Rauschenberg’s multidisciplinary work took on a much more communal, subjective slant, one that encouraged interpretation and conversation. Whether it was with his iconic mixed-media “Combines” or his numerous forays into performance and dance, an undercurrent of collaboration was present throughout. This year, almost a decade after the artist’s death, Rauschenberg’s gift for conversation-driving and community-building is coming into focus yet again—in Art For Good, a partnership between west elm and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
↑ Rauschenberg at Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, CA, 1969. Sidney B. Felsen ©1969
Launched to coincide with Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, a sprawling, career-spanning retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Art For Good is comprised of 17 home furnishings and decorative accessories, each featuring imagery from Rauschenberg’s ROCI series. ROCI (pronounced “Rocky”) stands for Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange. Between 1985 and 1990, ROCI found the artist exhibiting in ten different countries, typically ones that experienced limited freedom of expression. The purpose of the venture, funded almost entirely by Rauschenberg himself, was to spark dialogue, bridge cultural divides, and engender mutual understanding. After Rauschenberg’s team scouted a potential country, a process that involved extensive research and meetings with influential cultural figures, Rauschenberg would visit each, collecting materials, photographs, and information to inspire his work. Once the resulting works of art were complete, a final exhibition was staged in the country and the process was started anew.
↑ Caryatid Cavalcade I / ROCI CHILE, 1985
↑ Rauschenberg (with his dog Laika) working on a transfer drawing in his 381 Lafayette Street studio, 1968. Shunk-Kender. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
“Partnering with west elm was a natural fit for us given their strong commitment to sustainable, artisanal production and their belief that good design can drive meaningful change,” said Sharon Ullman, acting executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. “Rauschenberg’s life and work demonstrated how art could be a vehicle for social change, locally and globally. We are proud to collaborate with west elm on this special collection inspired by the work of our founder, bringing both his art and his belief that ‘art can change the world’ into homes across the country.”
Staying true to this ethos, each purchase from the Rauschenberg + west elm collaboration will benefit The Rauschenberg Foundation, with 10% of the purchase price benefiting their grants in art, social justice, climate change, and education. Take a closer look at this limited-time collaboration below and learn more about The Rauschenberg Foundation’s work here.
west elm is a proud sponsor of Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, on display at The Museum of Modern art May 21-September 17, 2017. Find out more here.