The work I chose from the Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at MoMA is a photograph by Robert Rauschenberg entitled Merce Cunningham Dance Company rehearsing Aeon. This work was produced in 1961, the size of the photograph itself is approximately 5 x 6 inches and is a gelatin silver print. This piece is part of a “the first 21st-century retrospective of the artist,”1 which “presents over 250 works across mediums from his six-decade career.”2
The concept behind the exhibition is to showcase the limitless and collaborative quality of Rauschenberg’s body of work. This photograph is found midway through the exhibit, it is located to the left of the entrance of a room filled with machined sculptures of found objects, as well as large canvas with colorful silk screen photographic collages. If one wasn’t paying attention they would miss this photograph as it is significantly smaller in size. The room as a whole spoke to the range and variety of Rauschenberg’s creativity. However, the contrast between this photograph and the other pieces pushes this sentiment even further highlighting the importance of his partnerships with other artists, as this photograph’s subject matter is the Mercer Cunningham Dance Company in rehearsal.
The formal qualities of this piece are; a black and white coloring, the dancers are located in the center of the frame, there is a soft studio lighting, a contrast between the organic shape of moving bodies in black leotards and the white walls as well as the linear wooden floors, this photograph also possesses a centralized depth of field. What interests me about this work is the way in which the subjects look as though they are abstract shapes moving across the picture plane. I appreciate that it feels as though as the viewer you are a spectator of a performance rather than an active participant. This relates to my own practice in the sense that I enjoy photographing subjects in a manner that allows them to be seen differently than as they are in person. Allowing a sense of space and distance as means for contemplation. In furthering my practice, I would like to work on developing this sensibility by consciously manipulating formal qualities and elements of design as I have noted in Rauschenberg’s composition of his photograph.
1 “Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends,” The Museum of Modern Art, accessed
August 25, 2017, https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3634/.
2 The Museum of Modern Art, “Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends.”