"Glorious fabrics" of Indian poor drape Rauschenberg UK art show

LONDON Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:37am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - Robert Rauschenberg's fabrics in electric blues and rich reds pop from the sterile walls of the Gagosian Gallery in London in a show of one of the American artist's lesser-known collections which curators hope will lure a new generation to his work.

"Jammers", named after the Windjammer merchant sailing ships, conjures the exotic with vibrant textiles draped, looped and layered across walls and around rattan poles.

The creation of the works marked a change in style from Rauschenberg's best known collection "Combines", built with detritus from the streets of New York, and followed the late artist's trip to India in 1975 when he spent time with a family of textile dyers.

"Bob (Rauschenberg) said the combination of the poverty and the squalor in India combined with the absolute flamboyance of the colors was something that was a revelation to him," David White, senior curator of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, told Reuters this week.

"Amid the poverty there would be one of the lowest castes, poor people, with a sari of bright, bright pink and he said that gave him the permission to deal with just the fabrics and celebrate the gloriousness of them," White said.

This combination is reflected in Rauschenberg's palette of opulent fabrics and the austerity of the poles, string and tin cans that form each individual "jammer", White said.

Squares of white pearlescent silk contrasted with matte, royal blue fabric are pinned loosely from the wall, next to tin cans suspended on strings from wooden poles.

"It's really celebrating the fabrics themselves," White said.

Born in 1925, Rauschenberg is credited with driving forward a number post-war art movements in the United States.

A good friend of John Cage, the American composer said Rauschenberg's work led him to compose his silent piece "4'33"".

The show at the Gagosian Gallery coincides with an exhibition at London's Barbican which pays homage to French artist Marcel Duchamp, American choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage and Rauschenberg, focusing on their artistic legacy.

But the collection "Jammers" has often been eclipsed by Rauschenberg's earlier work, receiving a lot less attention than "Combines", White said.

"Rauschenberg used to say 'the public has always been 20 years behind' - everything he did, he said people didn't catch on," White said.

"I'm hoping this exhibition will open some eyes...I think it's the public catching up," he said.

(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, editing by Paul Casciato)