‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’, by Robert Rauschenberg, is a work which I have been thinking about for the past few days. The work was created in 1953 after the artist had successfully acquired a drawing from de Kooning himself. I find it interesting to consider the work as a possible iconoclastic gesture. During the 1940s and 50s de Kooning was becoming known as a leading artist of abstract expressionism. As de Kooning was a figure of relative stature and influence it might be suggested that in this work Rauschenberg was challenging the man who was then considered one of the most important living artists. As is often the case with the destruction of religious imagery, the perpetrator is frequently looking to reduce the worshipped image to its material building blocks in order to show those who look up to it its relative banality. In so forcibly removing something which had the potential to influence art for generations ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’ caused much controversy. It is acceptable for an artist to erase or destroy his own work so why should a person who has purchased a work not be able to manipulate it as they please? In an interview (found on YouTube but no reference to where the account holder took the clip from) Rauschenberg suggests that his actions were not intended as a protest against abstract expressionism but instead came from a place of admiration. On some levels Rauschenberg might have simply been studying a work that he enjoyed so closely that he had to ‘unwork’ it in order to understand it satisfactorily, like a child playing with toy might one day take it apart in order to find out how it was put together.
In ‘Primacy of drawing’, Petherbridge mentions the Rubens often made drawings over other artist’s work and this was what I originally wanted to write about. When I came to look for information and images I couldn’t find any. Maybe I have misunderstood what she meant but I thought someone on here might be able to help me.