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NEW YORK (AFP) — Robert Rauschenberg, 82, one of the towering figures of 20th century art, died at his home in Florida overnight, a spokeswoman for the Pace Wildenstein gallery in New York told AFP Tuesday.
Rauschenberg, perhaps most famous for his “Combines” of the 1950s, was one of the celebrated figures of the Pop-Art scene, often using “found” material in his iconic works.
“I wanted something other than what I could make myself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and the generosity of finding surprises,” he said in a 2005 interview with Art Info magazine, in which he discussed the iconic series.
“If it wasn’t a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was,” he explained. “The object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing.”
Rauschenberg worked across genres, and was known for assemblage, conceptualist methods, printmaking, painting, sculpture and was even active in the field of choreography.
He was the first American artist to win the Grand Prize at the 1964 Venice Biennale, one of the art world’s most prestigious honors.
He shares a place with art giants Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns as a forerunner of American Minimalism and Pop Art, breaking what had until that time been a stranglehold by Abstract Expressionist artists in US galleries and museums.
Rauschenberg was named one of “the Century’s 25 Most Influential Artists” by the influential publication ARTnews in its May 1999 issue. He was also the first living American artist to be featured by Time magazine on its cover, a sign of how deep was his influence in shaping and reshaping the US cultural landscape.
Born Milton Rauschenberg in Texas on October 22, 1925, Rauschenberg was raised in a Christian fundamentalist family and originally wanted to become a minister.
He discovered a talent for drawing when he was 22 and serving in the US navy.
After leaving the military in 1948, he studied art at the private studio school Academie Julian in Paris, but moved to North Carolina less than a year later to continue his studies at Black Mountain College in North Carolina under masters including the Bauhaus movement’s Josef Albers.
After North Carolina, Rauschenberg, like many other Black Mountain alumni, moved to New York, where he took classes at the Art Students League between 1949-1951.
He worked in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida where he died early Tuesday.

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