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The Robert Rauschenberg Combines

If you only go to one blockbusting art show this year, then unequivocally, Rauschenberg's Combines at MOCA must be it.

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by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2006
A stuffed goat is special in a way that a stuffed goat is special
by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2006
A stuffed goat is special in a way that a stuffed goat is special

Saturday was a scorcher, wasn't it? The Germans easily handled the Portuguese in their 3-1 win in the World Cup Third Place play off game and when I finally got out onto the highways and byways of Echo Park, the pavement was melting so badly I had to quickly abandon my bar stool shopping expedition. I'm looking for plexiglass, and surely the sun would've melted any artifacts stationed in the back of the convertible, on the way home. Oh well. I was futher thwarted upon discovering that Food By Genet, the great pan Ethiopian/European restaurant was closed for the evening for a private do.

Things did not look up until we reached the 'original' Cha Cha Cha, on Virgil. Mmmmm. Food, Service, Fab. Their great interior is apparently redolent of pre-Castro Cuba, (how would I know?). It reminded Wife X of Barbados, a lot, "There are monkeys in there," a patron informed me while exiting the restrooms... Not wishing to endanger Cha Cha Cha's department of enivronmental health 'A' listing, I'll quickly add that more restaurant restrooms would benefit from a soothing Caribbean soundscape to rinse your digits by. By the way, my bistek argentino, not so carib, not so spicy as some dishes, but yummy.

Aside from anything else, Saturday Night on a balmy LA evening at MOCA is simply fun. Their summer Night Vision series offers Cheap drinks, routinely great DJ's (Cut Chemist is coming!) and the Night Vision ticket provides free entrance to the museum itself. I'm not sure if the ambience can be matched anywhere, with two bars and the action spread over the museum's Patinette patio and gift shop plaza. The split level fun makes creepy people watching a de rigueur breeze. You know I'd like that.

I don't know if we're culturally adrift in Los Angeles, or just missing something, but sometimes it seems that we don't host these blockbuster art shows, like the current Rauschenberg Combines with the all-round brio that London would offer. Whenever the show rolls up to the Tate, everybody is talking about it and everybody knows its unmissable. The variety of choice gift shop items with the work printed on it would probably only be bettered by Disney's current promotional push for Pirates 2 - some estimated 75,000 licensed items of merchandise. I can't eat a hamburger in this town without Johnny Depp sidling up and upselling me on a Pirate Portion and I was offered a limited edition Keira Knightley Pirates pin for $10 before I'd even made it to the Pirates display at the Disney store. I'm just happy to know that young Disney shop assistants view me as a mark for this kind of stuff. So, what's up with no Rauschenberg finger puppets, origami combines or pop up books, tea towels, bags for life, bar stools with his face on and so on and on and on. C'mon, MOCA, something for the more discerning visitor, please.

Robert Rauschenberg is probably the greatest contrarian swimmer against the tide of all time. Paint, print, bald eagles, oil cans, room fans - all this and much more finds itself embroiled in his series of Combines, combined maybe for the first and final time at MOCA. 71 of  Rauschemberg's signature 50s/60s works are here. These are giants of 20th Century Art in every way. That's right, the stuffed goat is here in all its glory, right through to what's regarded as the final combine (Gold Standard) created while defying the increasingly bold attempts of an art critic to draw out the meaning if his work on live Japanese TV. Every crumbling beauty is in the room it seems, and its unlikely to happen again. While MOCA owns eleven of the Combines and Rauschenberg's still around at 80 to gently persuade other museums, galleries and collectors to loan items for a show such as this, oh well, the clock is ticking on the potential longevity of all concerned.

Look. If you're reading this and you're about as handy with art history as me, get yourself over here - PBS.org and  find out a little more about Rauschenberg and his giant influence on late 20th art and popular culture. We're all about the show here and of course, lack of promotional tie in items aside, this is art that makes its point with a smile on its face, unless, maybe you're a stuffed goat but even its probably happier in its notoriety than it would've been in a long forgotten goat curry. It prompted a great SexandftheCity-ette to comment on "How used up the goat looked." Fucking hell, dear, if you'd been stuffed and trundled around the galleries of the world for as long as that goat, maybe you'd be looking a little used up too. Maybe then, you'd recognize a wry smile. It prompts one of our litany of favorite lines that we trot out..."If you only see one blockbuster art show this year..." make it Rauschenberg's Combines at MOCA.

250 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Thru September 4th, 2006
$8, free admission with a ticket purchase for Night Vision, MOCA's Saturday evening DJ mixed media event.

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