Gluts: Rauschenberg’s Recycled Junk Sculptures

Long before recycling became a conscious part of life, Robert Rauschenberg was combing the streets of New York and the junkyards of Florida for discarded objects to turn into poetic works of art. His combine paintings from the ’50s and ’60s included found furniture, Coca-Cola bottles, tires, and taxidermied animals, while his junk sculptures of the ’80s and ’90s utilized thrown out signs, bicycle parts, tailpipes, blinds, and radiators. On view through September 12 at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao — Frank Gehry’s fantastic structure that looks like an eccentric assemblage of steel — Rauschenberg’s humorously titled show Gluts reveals the artist at his best.

Sunset Glut mixes the speedometer form a car’s dashboard with strips of yellow scrap metal to simulate a falling sun. Mercury Zero Glut suggests metaphoric flight with the combination of a broken down fan and a wing. Snow Crab Crystal Glut conjures the figure of a sea creature with flattened pieces of plastic and metal. Meanwhile, a ladder, bucket, Venetian blind, and piece of rope make Blind Rosso Porpora Glut a curious sight.

Taken as a whole, Rauschenberg’s Gluts offer a view of America as a nation on the wrong path to righteousness. “It’s a time of glut,” Rauschenberg said of the work when he first presented it in 1986. “Greed is rampant. I’m just exposing it, trying to wake people up. I simply want to present people with their ruins. I’m giving them souvenirs without nostalgia. What they are really meant to do is give people an experience of looking at everything in terms of what its many possibilities might be.”

Click through below for a gallery of images.

Robert Rauschenberg, Sunset Glut, 1987, Assembled metal and plastic, 154.3 x 210.8 x 72.1 cm, Estate of Robert Rauschenberg © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / licensed by VAGA, New York, NY