"Every time I would show them to people, some would say they're paintings, others called them sculptures. And then I heard this story about Calder," he said, referring to the artist Alexander Calder, "that nobody would look at his work because they didn't know what to call it. As soon as he began calling them mobiles, all of a sudden people would say 'Oh, so that's what they are.' So I invented the term 'Combine' to break out of that dead end of something not being a sculpture or a painting. And it seemed to work."
In the autumn of 1970 Rauschenberg moves to the island of Captiva, in Florida, and abandons the materials offered by the streets of New York to turn to an industrial material the can be found everywhere and has no aesthetic value: cardboard packaging boxes. The artist uses this soft waste material between December 1970 and October 1971 to create a new cycle of works called Cardboards. After becoming the symbol of the expanding American capitalism in the post-second war period, in the 1960s packaging boxes are first celebrated by Andy Warhol as “product” in the Brillo Soap Pads Box of 1964 and subsequently used as “material” by Mel Brochner in the Standards and Measurement cycles of 1969. Rauschenberg executes his Cardboards in this context, and they soon find their original place between the materials used by the Arte Povera and the Antiform movements, denouncing the vulnerability and the fragile illusion of a rational order that can easily get deformed or collapse under the pressure of something so simple as moisture.
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