Art Vandals Background

A New Painting after Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1995, by Felix Gmelin
After Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg (1953) Tempera on paper and panel, in a gold leaf frame, 63 x 55 cm


Robert Rauschenberg in conversation with the legendary Tanya Grosman in her studio on Long Island outside New York:
tanya: I remember when Bob erased the drawing of de Kooning ... like somebody writes and he erases it, makes a sort of collage out of it.
bob: It was nothing destructive. I unwrote that drawing because I was trying to write one with the other end of the pencil that had an eraser.
tanya: (dreamily) You went over it ...
bob: I had plenty of erasers but I didn't have any art and I'd only figured out fifty per cent of this problem but if I did the drawing and then erased it it would go back to nothing so I had to take something that was accepted as art to use the eraser as a drawing tool. I don't think Bill de Kooning would let anybody else do it now.
tanya: At the time he was fascinated.
bob: Terrißed! A new generation of erasers! I was trying both at the same time to purge myself of my teaching and at the same time exercise the possibilities so I was doing monochrome no-image. It was only natural that I would use the other end of the pencil and that's not like having an idea if it's in the middle of your life and the way you're working.
I mean, to have an idea I've gotten many invitations: 'Please, send me your work, that I can burn, because I understood what you meant by the erased de Kooning!'
The erased de Kooning, it's like a picked ßower, and not even stolen, I asked permission, and so it wilts and the other end of my pencil was the wilter.
It wasn't a gesture, it had nothing to do with destruction. I would never part with it. How much could you charge for a de Kooning drawing that took three weeks to erase by an artist who also has a reputation? In what way do you add that? That goes back to the flowers again too. If you've ever really looked into a rose that you have asked for, it lasts much longer than anything sent to you or that you're growing. I may have to raise the price!
... Or erase it! said Maxime de la Falaise McKendry, who wrote down
this conversation.

From Interview, Vol VI, No 5, 1976