Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An "American artist" from Port Arthur

Robert Rauschenberg, once described as the most important American artist since Jackson Pollock, is dead.

So he joins Janis Joplin as Port Arthur's most infamous deceased offspring.

Of his Port Arthur years, the New York Times wrote:

Milton Ernest Rauschenberg was born on Oct. 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Tex., a small refinery town where “it was very easy to grow up without ever seeing a painting,” he said. (In adulthood he renamed himself Robert.) His grandfather, a doctor who emigrated from Germany, had settled in Texas and married a Cherokee. His father, Ernest, worked for a local utility company. The family lived so frugally that his mother, Dora, made him shirts out of scraps of fabric. Once she made herself a skirt out of the back of the suit that her younger brother was buried in. She didn’t want the material to go to waste.

For his high school graduation present, Mr. Rauschenberg wanted a ready-made shirt, his first. All this shaped his art eventually. A decade or so later he made history with his own assemblages of scraps and ready-mades: sculptures and music boxes made of packing crates, rocks and rope; and paintings like “Yoicks,” sewn from fabric strips. He loved making something out of nothing.

Also, Rauschenberg made the first art car, so the art car crowd in Houston should take note of his passing.

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