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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 15, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

Robert Rauschenberg is a famous artist. Hence, much of what he does is rendered slightly out of focus by the success of past achievements and the glamour associated with his name. One thing that's clear, however, is the intelligence and innovation that's informed much of his best work.

His "combine" paintings, some of which currently fill a small room at the Temporary Contemporary, introduced a new vernacular vocabulary of scavenged materials in the '50s. The choices Rauschenberg made in this work were so fresh, sure-footed and irrevocably right that it continues to deliver a startling thrill 30 years later.

Contrasted with this early work, Rauschenberg's new series, "Tibetan Keys and Locks," doesn't look like much. Sculptures and wall reliefs involving photo-silkscreen decals on powder-coated aluminum shapes, the pieces are essentially collages of images from Tibet--snow covered mountain peaks, husky dogs, exotic fabrics, shrines, native flowers. Rauschenberg favors bright, colorful images for his travelogue, and strolling through the exhibition is like flipping through an issue of Life magazine. The work chirps with a superficial, creepy cheerfulness, and one comes away wondering exactly what Rauschenberg thought he was doing with this slick, glossy series. It may take 30 years for us to catch up with "Tibetan Keys and Locks"; then again, it may just be a bum series. (Gemini G.E.L., 8365 Melrose Ave., to June 20.)

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