Rauschenberg solo exhibition is back in China after three decades

Updated: 2016-06-13 11:13

By Li Jing(chinadaily.com.cn)

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Rauschenberg solo exhibition is back in China after three decades

UCCA Director Philip Tinari introduces the piece to the audience at the opening of the exhibition. [Photo by Li Jing/China Daily]

"Rauschenberg in China", the retrospective solo exhibition of American artist Robert Rauschenberg was unveiled at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing on June 13. This is the first major exhibition in over three decades to showcase the artist's work to Chinese audiences, since his 1985 exhibition "ROCI CHINA" at the institution now known as the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

Organized in collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and curated by Susan Davidson and David White, "Rauschenberg in China" is also the first major exhibition after his death eight years ago.

On show is a painting called "The 1/4 Mile" or "2 Furlong Piece", which is seen as one of Rauschenberg's most important creations. It stretches for 305 meters and is made up of 190 parts.

The piece was completed over a 17-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.

White, who has been working with Rauschenberg since the 1980s, said the piece is like his dairy or autobiography, documenting the transformation in his technique and ideology.

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. 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.

UCCA Director Philip Tinari said it is the first time to see the work since 2000 and the piece on show is the most complete one.

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.

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

Rauschenberg's interactions with China started in 1982 when he made a trip to an Anhui paper factory to collaborate on an art project.

The 1982 trip resulted in "ROCI CHINA" exhibition in Beijing in 1985, which attracted more than 300,000 visitors over its three week run and also inspired an emerging generation of Chinese artists, during a period that would later come to be known as the "'85 New Wave".

Accompanying these works is a collection of documentation and ephemera the 1985 exhibition "ROCI CHINA", offering a rare glimpse into that historical moment.

Contact the writer at Lijing2009@chinadaily.com.cn.

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