Rauschenberg in China

2016.6.12 - 2016.8.21 Great Hall

By UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-2 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is proud to present “Rauschenberg in China.” On view in UCCA’s Great Hall from 12 June to 21 August 2016, the exhibition centers on Robert Rauschenberg’s (1925-2008) magnum opus The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece (1981–98), its 190 parts stretching 305 meters and exhibited for the first time since 2000.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-3 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Also included in the exhibition are a selection of Rauschenberg’s color photographs titled Study for Chinese Summerhall, taken during the artist’s travels in China in 1982.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-4 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Accompanying these works is a collection of documentation and ephemera related to his transformational 1985 exhibition “ROCI CHINA” at the institution now known as the National Art Museum of China, offering a rare glimpse into the historical moment when the artist’s global quest for inspiration and cultural exchange through art put him in front of an emerging generation of Chinese artists, during a period that would later come to be known as the “’85 New Wave.”

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-5 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Organized in collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and curated by Susan Davidson and David White, “Rauschenberg in China” is the first major exhibition in over three decades to showcase the artist’s work to Chinese audiences.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-6 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

A masterwork often read as a self-contained retrospective, The 1/4 Mile was completed over a seventeen year period from 1981 to 1998 and reflects major themes from throughout Rauschenberg’s oeuvre, ranging from his “White Paintings”, “Combines”, “Cardboards”, and “Gluts” to collages composed with found images as well as the artist’s own documentary photographs.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-7 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The earliest inspiration for the piece may have come from collectors Robert and Jane Meyerhoff, whose colt, which they had named Rauschenberg, won the Maryland Day purse in 1981.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-8 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The furlong is a unit of measurement used in horse racing, and two furlongs the distance between Rauschenberg’s home and studio on Captiva Island, Florida, reiterating the artist’s constant theme of the connection between “art” and “life.”

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-9 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

In quintessentially Rauschenbergian fashion, the components that make up The 1/4 Mile disregard traditional limitations of painting and sculpture. Patterned dress shirts, constructions made from found objects salvaged from junkyards, and silkscreens over Lexan move across walls and into the space as a single work, presented over a cacophony of street sounds collected from the artist’s travels.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-10 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The first half of The 1/4 Mile inaugurated the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1987, staying on view for an entire year. The piece was later shown in its near-entirety as part of the artist’s 1997 retrospective at the Solomon R.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-11 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Guggenheim Museum, subsequently traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Guggenheim Bilbao in 1998. Rauschenberg continuously added and revised The 1/4 Mile during its extended period of creation, and in keeping with his ideology of non-intention, the work has been presented in various configurations over the years. Its most recent public showing prior to this exhibition opened at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, in 1999.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-12 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Alongside The 1/4 Mile, “Rauschenberg in China” also includes Study for Chinese Summerhall, two portfolios of images taken during Rauschenberg’s first trip to China in the early summer of 1982, the only body of color photography the artist ever designated as art.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-13 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Outfitted with a Hasselblad camera, Rauschenberg recorded scenes of daily life in early Reform-era China, captured through his sharp eye for composition and unique sensitivity toward beauty in the mundane, and relating to elements of urban environments and landscapes that had frequently appeared in photographs made throughout his career.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-15 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

These rarely seen images were made as studies for the monumental 30-meter scroll-like photograph Chinese Summerhall, one of the centerpieces of his 1985 “ROCI CHINA” exhibition in Beijing.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-16 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Commemorating Rauschenberg’s interactions with China in the 1980s is a selection of ephemera and archival materials documenting his initial trip to one of the world’s oldest paper mills in Jingxian, Anhui province, as well as his 1985 exhibitions in Beijing and Lhasa.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-17 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Both exhibitions belonged to ROCI—the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange—a serial project of international exhibitions, which were held between 1984 and 1991 in countries also including Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Japan, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Germany, and Malaysia, culminating in a retrospective at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 1991.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-18 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The selection on view here includes hand-written statements, official documents, and brochures on the exhibition as well as a video travelogue documenting the 1982 trip. “ROCI CHINA” confounded and inspired viewers, whose exposure to Western art had been limited to reproductions within catalogues, and whose understanding of art had largely been confined to academic painting, sculpture, and printmaking.

Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-19 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

During its three-week run (15 November – 5 December 1985), the exhibition attracted more than 300,000 visitors. The idea for ROCI actually grew out of Rauschenberg’s 1982 China trip.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-20 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

“The interaction that occurred in Jingxian, between old and new, East and West, parochial and international, gave to the ROCI project the impetus and energy, both artistic and practical, that would fuel it on a global scale. ROCI became, consequently, a mode of communication and a bridge between disparate cultures,” wrote ROCI artistic director Donald Saff.

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-21 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

“We are thrilled to revisit Rauschenberg’s unique position in China’s contemporary art history through a substantive presentation of a major work which was created at exactly the moment of this encounter,” notes UCCA Director Philip Tinari. “It is particularly exciting to be opening our exhibition in the same year as the Tate and MoMA retrospective, and thus to be participating in a worldwide reassessment of Rauschenberg’s multifaceted, global legacy. We hope that this exhibition will illustrate not only how Rauschenberg inspired China, but how China inspired him.”

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-22 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-23 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-24 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-25 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-26 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-27 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-28 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

"Rauschenberg in China" Installation view-29 (2016) by Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Robert RauschenbergUCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was born in Port Arthur, Texas. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, he used the G.I. Bill to pursue an art education, enrolling at the Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri in 1947, and later at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he collaborated with artists including John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cy Twombly, and Susan Weil. He moved to New York in 1949 and mounted his first solo exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951. Immersion in the avant-garde experimentation of Black Mountain and the crucible of late Abstract Expressionist New York enabled Rauschenberg to develop a wildly inventive artistic practice. With his catholic interpretation, he created visual harmonies and cacophonies using found materials and objects, including disused household items, commercial products, construction refuse, and printed matter. In 1954, Rauschenberg began work on a series he called Combines (1954–64)—radically hybridized forms that pilfered from the vocabularies of both painting and sculpture while refusing to fit neatly into either category. The Jewish Museum in New York hosted his first retrospective in 1963. Combines exhibited with silkscreen paintings (1962–64) in the American presentation at the 1964 Venice Biennale earned Rauschenberg the International Grand Prize in Painting. As would be the case time and again with this controversial artist, his achievement generated as much acclaim as it did notoriety.

Robert Rauschenberg (1998)UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Throughout his career, Rauschenberg engaged variously with performance, photography, conceptual art, and technology, employing such diverse mediums as Plexiglas, cardboard, textiles, hand-made paper, and salvaged materials both organic and synthetic. In 1966 he cofounded Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) to encourage creative dialogue between artists and engineers. By this time, Rauschenberg had also become an accomplished printmaker, bringing his iconoclastic, limit-pushingfervor to the cooperative atmosphere of the print studio. After moving from New York to Captiva Island off the Gulf coast of Florida, he established Untitled Press in spring 1971, which enabled him to invite his artist friends to make prints in Captiva. In 1976, the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C. celebrated Rauschenberg as the country’s bicentennial artist, with a retrospective exhibition that traveled to several museums throughout the country. A trip to China in the summer of 1982 galvanized plans for the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI, 1984–91), a roving art making and exhibition enterprise that took him to ten countries outside the U.S. where he collected materials, took photographs, engaged with local artists and artisans, and presented his work. ROCI, an expression of the artist’s belief in the power of artistic exchange to foster cross-cultural understanding, culminated in a summary exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 1991. In 1993, Rauschenberg received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York launched a major career retrospective in 1997, which traveled internationally through 1999. Rauschenberg’s first posthumous retrospective will open at the Tate Modern, London in 2016 before traveling to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Throughout his life Rauschenberg approached his art with a spirit of invention and a curiosity for new materials, technologies, and ideas.

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