St. Petersburg, Fla.–Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist: Images from Everywhere, Prints and Photographs presents nearly 30 fascinating works on paper. Some are large-scale. The exhibition, set for Saturday, November 15, 2014 through Sunday, January 11, 2015, also includes a number of photographs by Rauschenberg (1925-2008).
The prints and photographs are extraordinary gifts to the Museum from Donna and Thomas Brumfield Jr. and Iris and E. Stan Salzer. Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin has curated the show, based on the 1999 exhibition which premiered these works. This is only the second time they have been shown as a group.
The Margaret Acheson Stuart Society provides major support for MFA exhibitions and educational programs. Bill Edwards Presents, Inc. is the Exhibition Title Sponsor 2014, and the Tampa Bay Times is the Media Sponsor.
In 1983 Robert Rauschenberg noted, “My images come from everywhere…I support the post office. Subscribe to everything…I pick up everything I can get my hands on.” He and James Rosenquist have explored and transformed the world around them in their art, creating some of the most compelling work of our time.
After building highly successful careers in New York, they both established strong ties to the west coast of Florida—Rauschenberg to Captiva, where he passed away, and Rosenquist to Aripeka, where he had a home and studio for 30 years. Both were destroyed in a brushfire in 2009. Rosenquist still spends time in a guest house which survived the fire.
A painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, set designer, even a performance artist, Rauschenberg enjoyed collaboration, whether with choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage, both longtime friends, or with the many artists he met during the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI). He brought his free and expansive artistic spirit to places like China and Cuba in the 1980s.
Images from Everywhere displays a wonderfully personal solvent transfer drawing by Rauschenberg, inscribed “FOR RICK FROM DAD BY RAUSCHENBERG 81.” The collage-like drawing, created for an assistant, brings together his interest in technology and space exploration with nature and also evokes Florida from which so many space missions have been launched. Rauschenberg’s solvent transfer drawings are produced by dissolving images and words from print media in a solvent and then rubbing them onto paper with a pencil—a technique he developed.
His photographs offer insights into what caught his eye—from sections of buildings and odd juxtapositions in the urban landscape to a playful moment shared by another great artist and friend Jasper Johns with his then wife Lois. Rauschenberg was influenced by the more abstract photographs of Aaron Siskind, whom he met and admired and who is also represented in the MFA collection.
James Rosenquist (born 1933) has also been influenced by pop culture. Early in his career, he supported himself by painting huge billboards above Times Square and along with Rauschenberg and Johns, designed windows for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany & Co. in New York. Throughout his life, he has been fascinated by the images which bombard us every day, and later, by the light, colors, water, and landscape he discovered in Florida.
In his vibrant Diver’s Line (1979), the bold red Mobil Pegasus logo, a favorite symbol, flies in from the right and charges into an eggbeater and cartoon panels with exclamations like “WHOOM!” and “SKRASH.’ A large, striking blue spiral anchors the work on the left.
The magnificent Welcome to the Water Planet (1987), a gift from the Salzers, reveals his passion for the environment. The large-scale work reflects his love for Florida, with its water, fish, and central tropical plant sporting spiky leaves. It reminds us that water is our foundation.
Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida, Tampa has played a significant role in
Rosenquist’s work. He credits his collaboration with artist/masterprinter Don Saff with helping him begin anew after he and members of his family were seriously injured in a terrible automobile accident. Several prints in this exhibition were created at Graphicstudio. His ties to the area can also be seen in his first public sculpture, It Heals Up: For All Children’s Hospital (2002), the iconic “Band-Aid” on the facade of the USF/All Children’s Pediatric Research Building in St. Petersburg.
Images from Everywhere is a tribute to these American masters, who both had major retrospectives organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—Rauschenberg in 1997 and Rosenquist in 2003. As the MFA prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, this choice exhibition spotlights the dynamism of the collection and the generosity of donors like the Brumfields and Salzers who have made the Museum what it is today.
Gallery Talk, Saturday November 15, 3 p.m.: On opening day, Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin introduces the exhibition she organized. A specialist in American art, Dr. Hardin has played a central role in enhancing the MFA collection. She holds her PhD in art history from Princeton University. Free with MFA admission.
UNCHartED Random Act of Culture, Thursday, November 20, 6:30-8 p.m.: Rauschenberg and Rosenquist excelled at drawing and collaboration. In celebration of their talent, the Tampa Drawers Sketch Gang will meet at the MFA to produce a series of collaborative drawings. Participation is encouraged and supplies are included. Several members of this group run the Seminole Heights gallery QUAID, where they hold weekly gatherings, open to the public, to work on drawings. Find out more at www.quaidgallery.com. Free with MFA admission: Only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
Art Bite, Monday, December 8, 1 p.m.: Tampa artist Theo Wujcik and Rosenquist were good friends and greatly admired each other’s work. Rosenquist considered Wujcik one of the most accomplished printmakers working today. In a half-hour, informal talk, Susan Johnson, Wujcik’s widow, will discuss his impressive Canto II (1997), on view at the MFA. Visitors can compare this work with those by Rosenquist and Rauschenberg in the exhibition. On your way out, visit the Museum Store for a FREE edible sample of Margaret Ann’s Gourmet Cookies. This bite-size snack is available for Art Bite guests only. Free with MFA admission.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
The MFA at 255 Beach Drive N.E. has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Morisot, Cézanne, Rodin, O’Keeffe, and many other great artists. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. The photography collection is one of the largest and finest in the Southeast. Don’t miss Jamie Wyeth’s Portraits of Rudolf Nureyev: Images of the Dancer from the Brandywine River Museum of Art, which continues through Sunday, January 18, 2015.
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