Here's an old post of mine about him, from back in 2004:
Robert Rauschenberg answers some questions from Deborah Solomon in today's NYT:Aren't you having another show now at Yale?Hmmm.... a little more info would be nice! There's this description:
Yes. I am not happy with it. It was organized by the gay studies department, whatever that is. It's not an approach that makes sense. I refused to give them permission to reproduce the works in a catalog."Robert Rauschenberg: Gifts to Terry Van Brunt'' features about 40 pieces that Rauschenberg gave as presents to his former lover, Terry Van Brunt. ... Jonathan Katz, an associate professor at Yale who launched the gay and lesbian studies program there in 2002, organized the exhibit.Meanwhile, back in the NYT interview, Rauschenberg is presenting himself as impersonally as possible. He speaks of painting from photographs. Asked “What sort of photographs do you prefer?,” he asserts that he “likes photographs of anything uninteresting. Maybe just two doors on a wall.” Asked “What is so great about the ordinary anyhow?, he answers, “I find the quietness in the ordinary much more satisfying." Asked if at 78, he thinks about dying, he says “No. Not at all” and tells a hackneyed anecdote about someone else. Asked why he left New York in 1970 to go live by the ocean in Florida, he alludes to a feeling of responsibility about “everybody … leaving their spouses,” then says a fortuneteller told him “it wasn't my fault but that I should go to sunshine and water” and he “was pleased with that.” He gives as the secret to happiness “enjoy[ing] something simple, like just looking at the ocean.”
"Rauschenberg himself does not want the work talked about in a gay context,'' Katz said. "But I am not responsible to the artist's wishes. I am responsible to the work.''
The collection includes "Bob's Face With Fly,'' a self-portrait that shows a fly on Rauschenberg's face, and "Terry's Briefcase Piece,'' a briefcase that was painted and collaged. Katz believes the exhibit is important because it shows how Rauschenberg's personal life has shaped his work.
ADDED: Here's the NYT obit — a very big one. Excerpt:
“Everyone was trying to give up European aesthetics,” he recalled, meaning Picasso, the Surrealists and Matisse. “That was the struggle, and it was reflected in the fear of collectors and critics. John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.”
Cage acquired a painting from the Betty Parsons show [in 1951]. Aside from that, Mr. Rauschenberg sold absolutely nothing. Grateful, he agreed to host Cage at his loft. As Mr. Rauschenberg liked to tell the story, the only place to sit was on a mattress. Cage started to itch. He called Mr. Rauschenberg afterward to tell him that his mattress must have bedbugs and that, as Cage was going away for a while, Mr. Rauschenberg could stay at his place. Mr. Rauschenberg accepted the offer. In return, he decided he would touch up the painting Cage had acquired, as a kind of thank you, painting it all-black, being in the midst of his new, all-black period. When Cage returned, he was not amused.
“We both thought, ‘Here was somebody crazier than I am,’ ” Mr. Rauschenberg recalled. In 1952 Mr. Rauschenberg switched to all-white paintings, which were, in retrospect, spiritually akin to Cage’s famous silent piece of music, during which a pianist sits for 4 minutes and 33 seconds at the keyboard without making a sound. Mr. Rauschenberg’s paintings, like the music, in a sense became both Rorschachs and backdrops for ambient, random events like passing shadows. “I always thought of the white paintings as being not passive but very — well, hypersensitive,” he told an interviewer in 1963. “So that people could look at them and almost see how many people were in the room by the shadows cast, or what time of day it was.”