Image: ‘The tarnished copper sheet bears an explicit trace of life’
Installation view of Robert Rauschenberg: Copperheads 1985/1989 at Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul. 3 November–23 December 2022. Photo: Cho Hyun Jin. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Featured in Seoul Economic Daily

‘The tarnished copper sheet bears an explicit trace of life’ Exhibition review

2 November 2022
Seoul Fort Hill

By Sang-In Cho

The ‘erased painting’ was his most famous work. Indeed, the artist erased another artist’s expensive work. Erased de Kooning Drawing (1985) by Robert Rauschenberg, whose influence can be seen in post-war art, is the painting in which he erased the drawing of pioneering abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and added his own signature. Rauschenberg's other well-known work, Bed, was created in 1955, when he ran out of money to purchase a canvas and instead painted on bedclothes. Painting, for him, does not mean describing something or expressing emotion in the traditional sense. It is critical for him to include life itself in it. 

Rauschenberg is a great artist and one of the top ten artists whose works have sold for the highest prices. His solo exhibition is currently on display at the Thaddaeus Ropac Seoul gallery. In collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the exhibition presents a group of Copperhead-Bites paintings, regarded as the most significant body of the artist's 1980s works, 

“Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made (I try to act in the gap between the two).”

In 1984, Rauschenberg launched an international cultural exchange program that extended from Mexico to Venezuela, Cuba, the Soviet Unions, and China. It's known as the 'Rauschenberg Oversea Culture Interchange (ROCI).' His trip to Chile as part of ROCI Chile inspired the works on display.

The gleaming copper-colored works on view are populated with images of everyday scenes found throughout Chile, such as the Christ statue, the cross in the cemetery, street graffiti, tangled wires, and chickens. In one painting, an image of the newspaper that featured the assassination of the respected Indira Gandhi is juxtaposed with an article stating that more than 200 citizens who resisted Pinochet's dictatorship were arrested. The copper supports occasionally depict Chilean beaches, drought-stricken land and deserts, and birds that have nowhere to live due to pollution.

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