Forty-four years ago today—October 29, 1976—“Robert Rauschenberg,” a mid-career retrospective organized by storied curator Walter Hopps, opened at the National Collection of Fine Arts (now Smithsonian American Art Museum @americanart), in Washington, D.C.
With a social responsibility equal to his artistic innovations, #Rauschenberg was the living artist Hopps considered best suited to honoring the American Bicentennial in the nation’s capital. Hopps later recalls reasoning to Joshua Taylor, director of the National Collection of Fine Arts, “The program should celebrate life and vision. What you want is an artist who is also a great citizen, who is engaged in the political dialogue and discourse, takes public stands, is a benefactor and philanthropist, who believes not only in his own art, but in the fate and lives of other artists, and has invested in them.”
In this spirit, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation commends all artists who continue to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo.
1. Walter Hopps and Robert Rauschenberg during the installation of the retrospective exhibition Robert Rauschenberg, National Collection of Fine Arts [detail], October 1976. Work shown in the background is Sor Aqua (Venetian) (1973).
2. Rauschenberg installing a Jammer [detail], October 1976. Photos: Gianfranco Gorgoni