Painting: Most Happy Fella

Robert Rauschenberg is utterly open-minded in defining art. He has painted completely black pictures and completely white ones. Once he tried making pictures out of dirt packed in boxes; when grass sprang up, he was delighted. Wheedling a drawing out of Willem de Kooning, the dean of abstract expressionists, he laboriously erased it, and then boldly displayed it under the label Erased De Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg 1953.

The boyish, lean Texan, now 38, is thus the most relentless experimenter in U.S. art. Experiment has led him to make much coy or trashy...

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