Forty or 50 years on, it's hard to imagine now the manic energy of the art world in the 1960s, or the way that Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, in particular, blew the doors off of artistic sensibilities at the time. Their libertine experimentalism bridged abstract expressionism and pop art, with a healthy dose of Dada thrown in. Rauschenberg's famous "combines" (the iconic tire around the stuffed goat) and his "paintings" that incorporated trash, photographs, and found objects, brought wit and anarchy and genuine fun to art. His works were as playful and exuberant as a child's finger painting. Rauschenberg's prints are surely the least interesting part of his lifework, but they're worth a trip to MIA nonetheless. The 30-plus examples here may seem a bit tame and typical now—the strict two dimensions cramped his style—but they do represent the artist's free-spirited sensuality, his kitchen-sink approach to creating, and a natural gift for line, form, color, and balance. A visit is also a fitting tribute to the artist's recent passing. Rauschenberg's death in May was a bigger deal than people let on. In this new century of catholic tastes and directionless trends, visual artists of his stature may be a long time coming.
Oct. 4-March 15, 2008