Spring 2012 Rauschenberg/Twombly/Johns by Catherine Craft, taught at the Nasher Sculpture Center, a Texas Fund for Curatorial Research Seminar
This graduate seminar examined the early careers of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Cy Twombly, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. These artists came of age in New York during a period of dominance by the Abstract Expressionists, who stressed authenticity and deeply felt emotion in their art. These three, in contrast, adopted experimental and subversive strategies that challenged conventions of authorship and self-expression through the creation of works that refused to acknowledge distinctions between the media of painting, sculpture, photography, and drawing, and between the conceptual polarities of abstraction and figuration.
Rauschenberg, Twombly, and Johns were involved with each other personally and mutually influenced each other as artists, the seminar treating them as case studies to consider models of reception and influence; the limits of biography in the practice of art history; and the relevance of queer theory and other areas of gender studies for understanding the creation of works of art. Their relationships to other artists and creative individuals, including Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham, was also considered.