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Odalisk, 1955-58

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008)

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© Robert Rauschenberg / Adagp, Paris, 2006; Used with permission

Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008). Odalisk, 1955-58. Freestanding combine. 210.8 x 64.1 x 68.8 cm (83 x 25 1/4 x 27 in.). Museum Ludwig, Köln.

© Robert Rauschenberg / Adagp, Paris, 2006
Odalisk combines oil paint, watercolor, crayon, pastel, paper, fabric, photographs, printed reproductions, miniature blueprint, newspaper, metal, glass, dried grass, steel wool, a pillow, a wooden post and lamps on a wooden structure mounted on four casters and topped by a stuffed rooster.

Though not visible in this image, the area between the wooden post and the rooster (a white Leghorn, or Plymouth Rock?) actually has four sides. Most of the images on these four surfaces are of women, including photographs of the artist's mother and sister. You know, between the title about female slaves, the girly pinups and the male chicken, one might be tempted to ponder on cryptic messages in here about gender and roles.

"Every time I would show them to people, some would say they're paintings, others called them sculptures. And then I heard this story about Calder," he said, referring to the artist Alexander Calder, "that nobody would look at his work because they didn't know what to call it. As soon as he began calling them mobiles, all of a sudden people would say 'Oh, so that's what they are.' So I invented the term 'Combine' to break out of that dead end of something not being a sculpture or a painting. And it seemed to work." - In Carol Vogel, " A half-century of Rauschenberg's 'junk' art," New York Times (December 2005).
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