For Robert Rauschenberg, one of the most radical innovators among a phenomenally creative generation of young artists who started their careers in the 1950s, dance was a great and singular passion. Indeed, although his early ambition growing up in Port Arthur, Texas was to become a preacher, he conclusively decided against it when he realized that the specific church to which his family belonged forbid dancing, and that this would therefore make an impossible vocation. At the beginning of 1954, he was exhibiting at the Stable Gallery in New York when he met for the first time the esteemed dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor, who had recently left the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to form his own company. During that first exhibition, Taylor spotted Pink Clay Painting (to Pete) among the various gallery detritus, which Rauschenberg gifted and dedicated to Taylor. This work, presented as lot 160, is the only surviving example of Rauschenberg's clay paintings, and this became the first work Paul Taylor owned by Rauschenberg.
Later that year Rauschenberg began work as a set and costume designer for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, while Taylor assisted the artist with commercial window displays, which Rauschenberg created for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany & Co. with his friend and occasional business partner Jasper Johns. Rauschenberg subsequently designed the sets and costumes for a number of productions by the Paul Taylor Dance Company from the mid-1950s. This significant record of achievement can only be described as a spectacular artistic collaboration that traversed conventional notions of boundaries between different art forms and media. Together Rauschenberg and Taylor pioneered a new synthesis of visual art, performance, dance and music to create an enduring legacy of groundbreaking work. The remarkable group of works by Rauschenberg on offer from the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pink Clay Painting (to Pete) and Untitled from 1994 (lot 161) in the Contemporary Art Day Sale, as well as Combine from 1954 and Tracer from 1962 in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale, stand as testament to this phenomenal creative partnership.
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