By the time Robert Rauschenberg died in 2008 at the age of 82, he was considered one of the great American artists of the 20th century. He was known for his radical experimentation, his work across materials and mediums, and his effort to explore the boundaries of what constitutes art.
But in 1953, he was just a 28-year-old budding art world player in New York with lots of big, unconventional ideas. And one of those ideas was about to rile up the establishment and quite literally enact what would become his reputation—an overthrowing of the old ideas as he ushered in the new. It would also earn him the moniker that would grace his biography for the rest of his life—he became the enfant terrible of the New York art world.
In 1949, Rauschenberg arrived in New York City after a roundabout journey that took him from his childhood home in Port Arthur, Texas, to conscription in the military during WWII, to attending art school at programs around the world.