Robert Rauschenberg with Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns. Erased de Kooning Drawing. 1953
LEAH DICKERMAN: Rauschenberg said that the idea of making an erased drawing came out of his work on the White Paintings. He asked himself the question, could you make a drawing solely out of erasing?
RAUSCHENBERG: When I just erased my own drawings, it wasn’t art yet. And so I thought, Aha, it has to be art. And Bill de Kooning was the—was the best-known acceptable American artist, well known, that could be indisputably considered art. And so—
I was on a very low-budget situation. But I bought a bottle of Jack Daniels. And hoped that— that he wouldn’t be home when I knocked on his door. And he was home. And we sat down with the Jack Daniels, and I told him what my project was. He understood it. And he said, “I don’t like it. But, you know, I—I understand what you’re doing.” And he went through one portfolio, and he said, “No. It’ll have to be something that—that I’ll miss.” So I’m—I’m gjust sweating, shitless, ya know? And then I’m thinking, like—like, It doesn’t have to be something you’re gonna miss. [they laugh] And—then he went through a second portfolio. Which I thought was kind of interesting, things he wouldn’t miss and things he would miss and—and then— and—and he pulled something out, and then he said, “I’m gonna make it so hard for you to erase this.” And it took me about a month, and I don’t know how many erasers, to do it.
It’s not a negation, it’s a celebration. It’s just the idea.