Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends

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Robert Rauschenberg. Monogram. 1955-1959

Robert Rauschenberg. Monogram, 1955–59. Oil, paper, fabric, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe-heel, and tennis ball on two conjoined canvases with oil on taxidermied Angora goat with brass plaque and rubber tire on wood platform mounted on four casters. Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Purchase 1965 with contribution from The Friends of Moderna Museet

Curator, Leah Dickerman: Here's Rauschenberg with the story of this work, Monogram.

Artist, Robert Rauschenberg: I was working with stuffed animals and it was more to, like, continue their life, because I always thought, it’s too bad they’re dead, and so I thought I can do something about that. There again I’m on the street (laugh) all my stories start “I was on the street,” and I pass this shop that was a second-hand office supply place. And I saw this magnificent goat there.

First, I tried to put it on a flat plane, and it was obviously too massive. It had too much character. It looked too much like itself that I couldn’t compete with my painting.

So I took it off the wall, put it out in the room and built an upright panel, but then it looked like he was a beast of burden. He kept looking as though he was supposed to pull it. He still refused to be abstracted into art. It looked like art with a goat. And so I put the tire there and then everything went to rest, and they lived happily ever after.

Leah Dickerman: Dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainier remembers her first sighting of Monogram.

Yvonne Rainier: I went to I think it must have been his first show at the Castelli Gallery on East Seventy-seventh Street. I saw the goat. I always say I nearly rolled on the ground with laughter. It was so refreshing after Abstract Expressionism. I mean he was still an expressionist using paint in that way, but so irreverent. I think my own sense of humor and irreverence began when I saw that show, and it opened up a whole new set of possibilities.