Lot 239: Robert Rauschenberg
Quorum (Bones and Unions)
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Throughout the 1970s, Rauschenberg embarked on adventures throughout France, the Middle East, and India to make art using the paper from some of the oldest and most respected paper mills in the world. In 1975, the Sarabhai family – admirers of Rauschenberg’s work – invited him to work in their paper mill that was originally founded by Gandhi as an ashram for sacred texts. When he arrived, he was amazed by “the contrast between the conspicuous wealth of the Sarabhai family and the poverty of the several hundred mill workers who worked for them.” Rather than working in the air-conditioned studio, he set up outdoor worktables in close proximity to the mill workers. For the series, Bones and Unions, Rauschenberg observed the workers’ ancient techniques: “These people looked like they were two hundred years old, just squatting for hours and hours – all these beautiful people working in the dreadful heat.” For Box Cars (1975), Rauschenberg and his crew poured white paper pulp mixed with Egyptian cotton on top of lattices of patterned fabric and bamboo strips. The resulting works, according to Rauschenberg, resembled kites. For Quorum (1975) from the same series, he wanted to use the mixture of mud and cow manure the families used to build their houses. This proved to be difficult since the mud washed away during the rainy season. With the help of the family, the workers, and the Gemini staff, he concocted two suitable, long-lasting mixtures. Comprised of paper pulp, fenugreek powder, ground tamarind seed, chalk powder, gum powder, and copper sulfate, Quorum is another collaborative effort that “present[s] contrasts as keen as those between the Sarabhais and their workers.”
Kotz, Mary Lynn. Rauschenberg/Art and Life. New York: Abrams, 1990. Print. Davidson, Susan, and Walter Hopps. Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective. New York: Guggenheim Publications, 1997. Print.