Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends


Robert Rauschenberg with Jasper Johns. Minutiae. 1954

Robert Rauschenberg with Jasper Johns. Minutiae, 1954. Oil, paper, fabric, newspaper, wood, paint sample color chart, graphite, metal, and plastic, with hanging mirror, on wood supports. Private collection, Switzerland. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Leah Dickerman: Minutiae came out of a set of collaborations among Merce Cunningham, the choreographer; John Cage, the composer; and Rauschenberg. And it's one of many in these years. Cunningham and Cage together had pioneered ideas of chance and indeterminacy in making works of art — the idea that you could create two works independently and then put them together, and something would come out of the chance associations produced.

And that's the way that Minutiae was designed. Cunningham choreographed a piece. Cage created a score, both independently. And then, Cunningham asked Rauschenberg also to create something independently. But he didn't want the work that Rauschenberg created to just sit there on the stage as a backdrop. He wanted something that the dancers could use, a work, he said, that his dancers could move through.

So Rauschenberg, in this context, created his first freestanding combine, something that wasn't hung on the wall but could stand on the floor.

And it might have prompted some of his thinking about what he sometimes described as getting the room into the picture, that is, a breeching of the boundaries between the work of art and the space beyond.

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