USFCAM Intern Perspective: Rosenquist and Rauschenberg

As part of Museum at Work’s crowd-sourced exhibition, Selected, USFCAM will offer rare displays of James Rosenquist’s Mirage Morning (1975) and Robert Rauschenberg’s Tampa Clay Piece 5 (1972).

Rosenquist’s works frequently incorporate references to mass media and though apparently simple on the surface, come off as surprisingly complicated and have greatly contributed to the development of pop art. His Mirage Morning is just one eye-catching example of his art. Created at USF Graphicstudio, Mirage Morning is a color lithograph with Plexiglas, painted window shades, and strings.

Mirage Morning whimsically juxtaposes bright and cool colors against a backdrop of symmetry. Rosenquist blurs the line between the two- and three-dimensional by placing objects on the print surface in such a way that their shadows become part of the background. At its center is a bright blue window shade, placed in such a way that it appears boxed in by the hot colors on either side of it. To the right is an assembly of shapes that unite to form a star and on the left is a circle leaving its square frame in an off-kilter mirror image of the center blind. This positioning provides graceful symmetry in its geometric design and prompts the viewer to take in the picture as a whole.

Simplistic at first glance, Mirage Morning is actually as complex as Rosenquist’s other works upon further inspection. The lithograph projects a sense of mystery, elegance, and cleanliness infused with the artist’s own wit and good humor.

James RosenquistMirage Morning, 1975 lithograph with Plexiglas and window shades36-1/4 in. x 74-1/4 in. x 2 in.
James Rosenquist. Mirage Morning, 1975. lithograph with Plexiglas and window shades. 36-1/4 inches x 74-1/4 inches x 2 inches.

Another pioneer of American pop art, Robert Rauschenberg is a master of creative reuse and his works turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by reappropriating objects and casting them in a new light. His Tampa Clay Piece 5 is one such work, made from clay and fiberglass into the shape of an aging sack. Also produced at USF Graphicstudio, Tampa Clay Piece 5 is a particularly fragile work that is rarely displayed and hasn’t been shown by CAM since Rauschenberg’s passing in 2008.

An excellent sample of the artist’s work, Tampa Clay Piece 5 draws attention to the mundane in its subject matter. The piece itself is crafted with creases and dirt marks, effectively showing the toll of time through the use of wrinkles and discoloration. In this way, Tampa Clay Piece 5 appears not as another discarded object, but as a piece of artwork; it captivates the attention an ordinary sack would never receive. In doing so, Rauschenberg cleverly navigates the viewer’s’ focus to the sack replica’s features– no longer an everyday object on its way to the garbage heap, the sack now becomes something beautiful in its own right.

Tampa Clay Piece 5 asks viewers to step back and reexamine the world around them, delivering a message that says: there is beauty in simplicity and warmth in what should be lost. Tampa Clay Piece 5 presents an endearing look at an otherwise imperfect subject, demonstrating Rauschenberg’s artistic charm and innovation.

Robert Rauschenberg Made in Tampa Clay Pieces: Tampa Clay Piece 5, 1972 clay and fiberglass40-1/4 in. x 22-1/4 in. x 4-1/2 in.
Robert Rauschenberg. Made in Tampa Clay Pieces: Tampa Clay Piece 5, 1972. clay and fiberglass. 40-1/4 inches x 22-1/4 inches x 4-1/2 inches.

Tampa Clay Piece 5 and Mirage Morning will be shown as part of Selected until the exhibit closes on July 25, 2015. USFCAM encourages visitors to stop by and see these unique pieces before Museum at Work comes to an end.

Kylene Harrington
English Undergraduate
USFCAM Intern Writer

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