[This is an image of Roci just as she was about to (slowly and gently) bite down on my toes. For a collaboration with Merce Cunningham, Bob once strapped flashlights on the backs of land tortoises that he rented from a pet store. After the performance, Bob kept one of the tortoises and named her Roci. Whenever my family stayed at Bob’s house in New York City, Roci would come towards me and slowly chew on my feet while I practiced my violin.]
“What is the largest piece you ever made, and what is the smallest piece you ever made?” My handwriting from the second grade is quite visibly juvenile. Bob’s reply, in his own all-caps, blocky print: “The largest piece I ever made is the Quarter Mile, which is a quarter of a mile long, and the smallest piece I ever made was a few square inches in size–astronauts brought it up to space with them, and it is the only piece of art to ever be put on the moon.”
From an early age, my godfather Robert Rauschenberg existed in an offbeat, abstract place. He was a busy man, constantly working and producing works of art at an astonishing rate. He lived on Captiva Island off of Florida’s coast, which was far enough away from the mainland of Ft. Myers to seem inaccessible and remote. My father was Bob’s metal fabricator, in charge of solving all of the production puzzles that Bob was clever enough to put before him. One night, Bob dreamt of making a glass car tire. Another day, it was a solid gold pineapple. My dad was the one who figured out how to actualize these dreams in physical form.
I recall accompanying my dad to work, most often on the weekends when there wasn’t any school. One time, I sat on Bob’s kitchen counter and he fed me Swiss cheese. Another time, he told me that he would be visiting the Emperor of China soon, and asked my opinion of a small sculpture that he was making to give to the Empress. On a small panel, there was an image of a swan; the panel was hinged to a mirror, so that the swan was reflected as if floating on water.
As I got older and became more aware of Bob’s influence, I was astonished by his inability to tarnish. Many times I would find him sitting silently in his house, sometimes for minutes on end. The expansive walls, high ceilings, and vast floor were spotlessly white. Amidst this whiteness Bob would sit and create, or in his own words, be “working in the space between life and art”. You would see him stop to think for a second, and then a sudden sparkle would light up in his eye, and he would produce a sharp-witted observation. As if to interrupt any sort of hesitation or pause of wonder in the room, he would then laugh a contagious laugh that would fill the echoing space of his studio.
Alexa is a graduate student at Columbia University, studying Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.
There are still works available by Robert Rauschenberg for the Trisha Brown Dance Company benefit auction. The online sale is now closed, but there are tickets available for the live event at Sekkima Jenkins today! Please contact Heather at (646) 278 – 6120; for information on work available contact Lora at (952) 484 – 5953.