Robert Rauschenberg

ROCI

★★★☆☆

On until 3 August 2024

There isn’t much new I expected to learn from a commercial excavation of an artist as thoroughly researched as the father of Neo-Dadaism Rauschenberg. This framing of his exhibition travels to cultural foes like Mexico, Venezuela, China, Japan, the Soviet Union, and East Germany in the 1980s, however, had me surprised. The project known as the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange and endearingly abbreviated to “Rocky” after the artist’s pet turtle outs Rauschenberg as a propagandist if not an outright Fed.

I happened to visit the gallery as one of its sales staff showered the work with adjectives for the benefit of a collector from one of these “alien but same” cultures. The American’s travel to politically “hostile” territories was “brave”. His wall assembly of Cuban cardboard boxes was “beautiful” and “profound” in a way only a child of American democracy could aspire to. That a visit to Tibet gave rise to a series of sculptures made of detritus was “remarkable”. Above all, Rauschenberg’s belief in the power of art to overcome division was “commendably unwavering”. 

It is no secret that the CIA supported American Abstract Expressionism at the height of the Cold War. That celebrating art’s complicity with regime propagation decades later would be profitable will need a future historian to untangle.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Shu Lea Cheang at Project Native Informant ★★☆☆☆

Shu Lea Cheang

Scifi New Queer Cinema, 1994-2023

★★☆☆☆

With material this gratuitously explicit and a curator this absent, it’s a miracle that this project wasn’t shut down by the licencing, or indeed art-historical authorities.

Joshua Leon, The Missing O and E at Chisenhale Gallery ★☆☆☆☆

Joshua Leon

The Missing O and E

★☆☆☆☆

This embarrassing display indicts today’s second-fiddlers with narcissism and egomania.

Pauline Boty at Gazelli Art House ★★★★☆

Pauline Boty

A Portrait

★★★★☆

This exhibition mixes the woman and her legend, but without the air of mystery she enjoyed during her lifetime.

Diego Marcon, Dolle at Sadie Coles HQ ★★★☆☆

Diego Marcon

Dolle

★★★☆☆

Idle work became indistinguishable from leisure, vegetative time-passing from family life.

Entangled Pasts at The Royal Academy ★★☆☆☆

Entangled Pasts, 1768–now

★★☆☆☆

Who could have thought that these mantras would turn into rote?

Matthew Barney, SECONDARY at Sadie Coles HQ ★★★☆☆

Matthew Barney

SECONDARY: light lens parallax

★★★☆☆

Secondary turns the gallery into an American Football stadium. But all the seats in the house are the cheap seats and the game lacks a cheerleader.

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