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Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg

Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)
— Robert Rauschenberg, 1959

Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg is an homage to an artist who was my personal hero, and my nemesis, in my student years. He was my hero because of the infallibility of his touch, and the constancy of his ability to invent and re-invent the potency and power of visual art — to push the boundaries of what art could be. He was my nemesis because I saw him as pure genius and his every gesture as perfection — conditions that were not, I thought, possible for others to attain. But my joy and delight in his work continued and my pleasure in talking with him from time to time over the years was enormous.

Curated by Paul Schimmel, Robert Rauschenberg: Combines was shown in early 2006 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On seeing it there, and upon learning that there were no plans to film it, I asked Bob for permission to do so at the next venue, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

This elegy is dedicated to the memory of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) and to the memory of his friendship with my late husband, Earle Brown (1926-2002), whose music has been intertwined and juxtaposed here with images of the glorious Combines.


Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg has been created from footage filmed by Art21 at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles during the 2006 exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg: Combines. Among the works seen in whole or in part are Minutiae (1954); Interview (1955); Monogram (1955-59); Canyon (1959); Gift for Apollo (1959); Black Market (1961); Empire II (1961); Pantomime (1961); Ace (1962); and Gold Standard (1964).

The video is set to music composed by Earle Brown who, along with Rauschenberg, was a member of a small group of friends in the 1950s that included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Morton Feldman, Jasper Johns, and Christian Wolff, among others. In the spirit of that long-ago friendship, and in the collaborative spirit of that time and group, excerpts from the following works by Brown have been selected and collaged, with permission of The Earle Brown Music Foundation, for this video: Music for Violin, Cello, & Piano (1952); Octet I (1953); Folio and 4 Systems (1954); String Quartet (1965); New Piece (1971); and Special Events (1999).



VIDEO | Producer: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Ray Day. Editor: Lizzie Donahue. Special thanks to Robert Rauschenberg’s Studio and David White; Paul Schimmel and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Earle Brown Music Foundation and Thomas Fichter.

PHOTO | Production stills, 2008. © Art21, Inc.

  1. john chang says:

    What a great artist!

  2. Robert Gillis says:

    Is there any chance that I could get a downloadedable version in Quicktime format for a presentation to an American Studies class at Winchester High School in Winchester, MA. I plan to present Robert Rauschenberg on May 30, 2008 and would like to include this video.

    Elegy for Robert Rauschenberg

  3. Yes! This and all other Art21 “Exclusive” videos may be downloaded for FREE through iTunes.

    This link will launch iTunes:


  4. I have been influenced by Bob’s work since 1986 while attending ASU (Angelo State University) in San Angelo, Texas. On the way back from a weekend museum tour in Dallas and Fort-Worth, the talk among students was dominated by the caliber of the original Rauschenbergs that we had experienced. I was reading recently … Breaking Boundaries and was commenting about his work to fellow artists. Among them, one is dyslexic. but is not familiar with Bob’s work. A few days later I heard the unexpected news on NPR. My deepest regret is that we never met, but he will continue to live through his legacy and his influence in my work.

  5. Pingback: elegy for robert rauschenburg (1925 - 2008) | feedback [ barry jones ]

  6. When I came across Robert Rauschenberg and seeing his work,I learned of the limitless possibilities within art and what you can do within the gap between art and life. He has earned his rest and our thanks.

  7. This is wonderful! Thank you. We have an new art community, visit us at


  8. Thank you again and again! We would love to share this with the Ovation TV Community. and you can find out more about Ovation TV at

    We love you Robert Rauschenberg! We love art:21! Here is a clip from a documentary.

    Ovation TV | Robert Rauschenberg: Man At Work

  9. Zerodollars says:

    I like Art 21.

    Greetings from Brunswick, Australia.


  10. Annette says:

    Can this video be purchased on DVD?

  11. Pingback: V: Art21: Elegía para Robert Rauschenberg « Mis mejores zapatos

  12. Pingback: Roundup: 30 Weeks & 30 Exclusive Videos | Art21 Blog

  13. Pingback: Earle Brown | Available Recollections: Soup « Music, Polyphony and Polyrhythm

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