Robert Rauschenberg – Dylaby

Attentive Looking involves engaging with a work, unpacking one’s own response. Not external information, not that “answer” on the label on the wall (or at your fingertips with the O device at MONA). Looking. Seeing what is happening, an event where the work meets or affects you. Mining that experience, the points of attraction or impact on you, how you could use those as a new starting point in your own investigations, in your own terrain.

This week I went to AGNSW, to the area in the Contemporary galleries just outside the Duchamp exhibition. What collection works would the curators have chosen to respond to that?

One work in particular called to me straight away.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby

I stood there, trying to figure out why. I scrawled notes.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby (detail)

Scale – not too big. Garage or shed or maybe farmyard detritus.
Found objects with history, materiality.
Echoes of past use, but not loud or forceful.

Timber and rubber. Good, solid, known, functional, familiar, materials. Complement each other. Natural, but formed by human.
Texture – the grain of the wood, the tread and molding of the tyre, the gaps and joins, the runs of paint.
Components match in size as well as complementary material.

Double headed arrow. Asking me questions.
Strong geometric shapes. Circle, rectangle, the triangle of the arrowheads.
Repetition of shapes and levels of detail. Rectangles within and across rectangles. Circular molding on tyre as well as the major edges.

Limited, neutral, colours. Cream paint, brown of timber, black of tyre and paint, deeper black of glimpsed interior.

Interior / external play.
Unified. Balanced. Coherent.
Self-assured. Self-contained, but not trapped.

Chosen to be together. Linked by found status, by random marking in cream paint – but not “matched”. I suspect the doublehead of the arrow was a modification by the artist. Another sign of choice, of the conscious eye and hand of the artist.

Definitely an object (a current area of interest and research).

I think the biggest challenge to me in my own work, the question asked, is in materiality. I’ve been reading in that area. Ruth Hadlow has challenged me in that area. I can feel an internal resistance. Part of that is practical. The found objects most available to me are domestic, and it feels hackneyed. That was the major reason for the “tip of the tongue” theme I haven’t written about yet. There’s a lot of junk in the house, which we’re currently clearing out. None of it is particularly evocative. And if it were, there’s the storage consideration. More thought required.

Adroitly redirecting attention, going to external sources of information gave a different view. This “combine” is one of very few items still existing from an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1962 of the same name. It’s an abbreviated form of “Dynamic Labyrinth”. I can’t do justice to it here, it sounds totally crazy – see for example https://stedelijkstudies.com/journal/ludic-exhibitions-at-the-stedelijk-museum-die-welt-als-labyrinth-bewogen-beweging-and-dylaby/. A total contrast to the galleries in which I saw the Rauschenberg work. (I was going to write about the cool and calm gallery, but AGNSW has its noisy, colourful, crazy moments too.)

It’s good to have that contrast, that reminder. My experience of the work was very different – quiet, personal, contemplative. A work can be different in every encounter.

1 Response to “Robert Rauschenberg – Dylaby”


  1. 1 kath July 11, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    great notes – I’ve saved the email for this post to come back and revisit. I love Rauschenberg’s work, from what I’ve seen. haven’t seen the Duchamp exhibition yet, hoping to soon.


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