Take something, leave something.
In the 1950s, Robert Rauschenberg began making works that were a hybrid of collage, painting and sculpture. He called them “Combines.” These are among our favorite of Rauschenberg’s oeuvre. He created the combine Black Market in 1961, for an exhibit at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
A collage on the wall which included four notebooks and a ONE WAY sign was attached by rope to a suitcase on the floor. Rauschenberg left four objects in the suitcase, and on the first page of each notebook drew that object. In the suitcase were instructions in ten languages: “Objects 1, 2, 3 or 4 may be taken if a new object is put in its place…trace or draw it into the book of the same number, and sign your name.” Thus a kind of archeological record was kept of the exchange, and the visitor became a collaborator in the creation of the artwork, in the life of the exhibition.
We loved Black Market when we saw it in the Combines show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but were saddened to find that the suitcase was inaccessible, and that the interactive aspect of the work had been locked up in it.
On April 16, Lawton Mull will enact an homage to Rauschenberg’s Black Market, arranging in an alligator suitcase an offering of objects for visitors to the SKIN Show. Willing participants will be able to look through the objects, and choose one to take with them. They will be asked to leave something they had with them, or leave an artwork of their own making–whether a drawing, a bit of origami, a spontaneous poem. It is our hope that people will be inspired to re-examine their notions of value, to allow themselves intimate contact with a work on exhibit, to find the childlike spontaneity to make art.