Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends

*First Time Painting*

Robert Rauschenberg. First Time Painting. 1961 8140

Robert Rauschenberg. First Time Painting, 1961. Oil, paper, fabric, sailcloth, plastic exhaust cap, alarm clock, sheet metal, adhesive tape, metal springs, wire, and string on canvas. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie. Marx Collection

Leah Dickerman: Homage to David Tudor was a collective event that was staged by Robert Rauschenberg but also the artists Niki de Saint Phalle, Jasper Johns, and Jean Tinguely at the American Embassy in Paris in June, 1961.

They decided what to do independently. And then, the contribution became part of a whole. Niki de Saint Phalle hired the second-best sharpshooter in the world to shoot at one of her works. And the work was embedded with bags of paint that then burst and dripped on the painting. Jasper Johns signaled the program's intermission by carrying his painting Entr'acte onto the stage. Entr'acte means “intermission” in French.

Rauschenberg produced First-time Painting in front of the audience. And the way he did it was extraordinary. He turned the back of the painting so that the audience couldn't see what he was doing. But at the same time, he attached contact microphones to the painting, so they could hear each brush stroke, ch-ch-ch-ch, while he painted in front of them. And then, when an alarm clock went off, he stopped painting. That's a question that painters always ask themselves. How do you know when a painting is done?

Now painting becomes a concert, an orchestration of sound. But it's a sound of everyday life. It's just like the way that Rauschenberg pulls things from the real world into his paintings.

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