Robert Rauschenberg, 1925-2008

The optimist who used a bald eagle to challenge America's idea of art

In his last years, despite a crippling stroke, and with the help of his longtime companion Darryl Pottorf, Rauschenberg continued to send assistants out to shoot photos for massive collages, such as spare juxtapositions of ancient marble columns against plastic drinking straws. His primary instruction, to those who lacked his gift for discovering beauty in banality, could also be the artist's epitaph: "If you think something would be a bad shot, take it."

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