Rauschenberg collected objects from New York City streets. He would take “whatever the day would lay out.” For this work, he combined painting, collage, and a stuffed eagle that his friend, the artist Sari Dienes, found in the trash. Find other items in the painting: the cuff of a men’s shirt sleeve, a metal can, a photo of the artist’s son, and a pillow. Rauschenberg called this artwork Canyon. What title would you give it?
Kids label from 2023
Canyon is one of Rauschenberg’s Combines, the hybrid works incorporating painting, collage, and found objects that he began making in 1954. Rauschenberg often kept an eye out for curious items while walking the streets in downtown Manhattan, later taking “whatever the day would lay out” and using it toward artistic ends.
In 1959 he received a phone call from a friend, the artist Sari Dienes, who offered him a taxidermy eagle she had found among objects destined for the trash. Back in his studio, Rauschenberg set to work incorporating the bird into a canvas along with other nontraditional materials—the cuff of a men’s shirtsleeve, an industrial metal canister, a photograph of his young son, a pillow—all collaged among fabric and printed matter and covered with various kinds of paint.
“A pair of socks,” Rauschenberg declared of his Combines, “is no less suitable to make a painting with than wood, nails, turpentine, oil, and fabric.” By incorporating the stuff of the everyday world into painting, Rauschenberg challenged the heroic gestural painting of the Abstract Expressionist artists who had preceded him and asserted an openness to ordinary objects that would be widespread among later generations of artists.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)