Art Projects- Cardboard Assemblages Inspired by Rauschenberg's Card Bird II

by - Wednesday, October 09, 2013

At my job at the Cantor Art Center, we design art projects that are inspired by an art object within the museum. For September, I was inspired by Rauschenberg's assemblage Card Bird II:

From Here
This object provided the opportunity to learn about three important things
1. Assemblage- This is an art technique in which you combine objects into a relief or sculpture.
2. Texture- Because assemblage often uses uncommon materials, it also combines lots of textures that you don't often see in art objects. It allows you to play with all sorts of materials.
3. Value- Everyone thinks of art as something that is very expensive and valuable, but Rauschenberg and other artists (especially ones who worked in Happenings) tried to subvert the gallery system and models of value within it. I think this can be canned into an important lesson for children about how the value of something is in their ideas, not their objects. Anyway, that is what I was aiming for.

From Christies

Robert Rauschenberg was inspired by artists like John Cage, and many of his objects stress their low-value inspiration. Notice that he isn't just using cardboard, but he rips the edges so the corrugation inside shows and the writing is prominently featured. These are objects with literal rough edges, and you are supposed to feel like they were pulled out of a dumpster.

Many artists in the 60's were building new connections between high art and low or blue collar materials. Artists who made Happenings, for example Allan Kaprow and Robert Whitman, made performance environments where you feel a bit like you have walked into a dump. In Whitman's American Moon, the junk literally came alive.

Allan Kaprow- Yard- 1961
Robert Whitman- American Moon- 1960
At the same time, other artists were using banal, everyday materials as the subject of their art (think pop art and Andy Warhol's soup cans). This turn in art (and its overt response to the market) changed what could be said in American Art in a huge way. For our purposes, it sets up a project that can teach children, especially ones from dramatically varied households, that you don't need fancy materials to make good art. It also ties into Recology, which has a pretty great art fellowship in the Bay Area.

So, the project! I had the visitors make their own assemblages out of cardboard, butcher paper, old phone book pages, sponges, toothpicks, and any other junk I could find in the art studio. It was important to me to keep the colors relatively bland and minimal (even though I LOVE color). Like a fool, I didn't think to take pictures of the finished products, which were awesome. I told them to make birds, but they made all sorts of things, and they were gorgeous. When I teach again in a few weeks, I promise to take pictures. Here is the example I made:



Yay writing my own art lessons! Could I make this any more complicated for a room full of 40 2-10 year olds? Probably, and I will. Stay tuned.

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