They Couldn’t See Black as Pigment

Indeed, Rauschenberg had been very troubled by the reception of his black paintings (1951-1953), which critics and viewers alike assumed were to be understood at that emotive level. “They couldn’t see black as pigment,” he complained. “They moved immediately into association with ‘burned-out,’ ‘tearing,’ ‘nihilism,’ and ‘destruction.’…I’m never sure what the impulse is psychologically, I don’t mess around with my subconscious.” For good measure, he added, “If I see any superficial subconscious relationships that I’m familiar with—clichés of association—I change the picture.”

Rosalind Krauss, Perpetual Inventory, Robert Rauschenberg, October Files 4


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