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Review: Robert Rauschenberg… and In the Shadow of a Giant 

D. Eric Bookhardt on two local shows inspired and influenced by Robert Rauschenberg

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Robert Rauschenberg and Five from Louisiana and In the Shadow of a Giant His work was always of the moment, anticipating every new trend while remaining much the same over the decades; Robert Rauschenberg was making pop art in the 1950s when Andy Warhol was still a shoe illustrator. He was born in Port Arthur, Texas, but in the 1940s his family moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he returned every year for his New Orleans-born mother's birthday. This show is a mini-reprise of Five From Louisiana, a 1977 New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) expo that also included work by Lynda Benglis, Tina Girouard, Richard Landry and Keith Sonnier — Louisiana natives prominent in New York's pivotal post-minimalist movement. Unlike minimalism's starkness, postminimal art was, like this state's primal baroque wildness, organic and curvaceous. These works complement NOMA's big, newly acquired Rauschenberg mixed-media piece, Melic Meeting (pictured), while reminding us of the transformational role that Louisiana artists played in the evolution of American modernism.

  Fast forward to 21st-century St. Claude Avenue, where we find a trove of Rauschenberg-inspired works by Generic Art Solutions (Tony Campbell and Mat Vis). Rauschenberg was an art world titan when he died in 2008, and his foundation maintains his 20-acre compound on Florida's Captiva Island, where Campbell and Vis were recently had a one-month residency. There they made art that embodies the inventiveness for which he and they are known, works like Flight, where Campbell wearing Icarus wings is depicted in a literal leap of faith over the Gulf of Mexico — an homage perhaps to Rauschenberg's famously inspired, if somewhat woozy, flights of fancy. The most substantial work on view is their Rauschenberg and Constantin Brancusi-based Maiastra, two bicycle frames precisely conjoined into a beautifully symmetrical "thought cycle" — a vehicle they say "can only be ridden with one's imagination ... unless you actually take a ride beyond the earth's atmosphere into zero gravity." — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT


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