A new exhibition illustrating one of North America’s most important artistic dialogues opens this weekend at the National Gallery.
Rauschenberg & Johns: Significant Others reveals how – at the height of the abstract expressionist movement – a new avant-garde began to materialize from the same-sex relationship between two young artists – Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
During the homophobic 1950s, from their dilapidated studios in New York, Rauschenberg and Johns began a private creative dialogue that introduced everyday signs, objects and media into their work, erasing the distinction between art and culture. life.
Together from 1953 to 1961, when same-sex relationships were illegal in the United States, the couple was forced to navigate the expression of their sexuality within a society that did not accept them.
From the National Gallery‘s Kenneth Tyler Collection, Rauschenberg & Johns brings together print and multimedia works by both artists, including Rauschenberg’s masterpiece Booster and Johns’ iconic Color numerals series. Their work will be presented alongside key works by their predecessors and contemporaries such as Marcel Duchamp and René Magritte.
The exhibition highlights how Rauschenberg and Johns developed ideas developed through their private discourse, influencing each artist beyond their relationship.
At the time, New York’s art culture centered on abstract expressionism, often presented as an exposition of the self and the unconscious. Defying the trending theme and mindful of their personal circumstances, Rauschenberg and Johns asserted that their art was not about themselves and did not reflect their personalities.
David Greenhalgh, the National Gallery‘s Kenneth E Tyler assistant curator, prints and drawings, said Rauschenberg & Johns’ work challenges ideas of authorship, value and how art should communicate with an audience.
“The success of Rauschenberg and Johns is a result of them being an audience for each other. While their relationship would come to an end after seven years, their art would continue to radiate new ideas from their creative exchange,” Greenhalgh said.
Rauschenberg and Johns helped reshape American printmaking, working with famed printmaker Kenneth Tyler to create groundbreaking works in lithography and screen printing, as seen in the exhibit.
Rauschenberg & Johns: Significant Others opens this Saturday, June 11 and runs until October 30, 2022 before touring as a traveling National Gallery exhibition in 2023.