This obituary of Robert Rauschenberg contains some great quotes from the artist…
An improvisatory process was what mattered most to him:
Screwing things up is a virtue. Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.
Embracing change is essential:
John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change.
Boredom and understanding are the same thing:
I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop. At the time that I am bored or understand — I use those words interchangeably — another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore.
Anything you do will be an abuse of somebody else’s aesthetics. I think you’re born an artist or not. I couldn’t have learned it. And I hope I never do because knowing more only encourages your limitations.
There is poetry in simple, everyday designs:
I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly. Because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.
His description of an encounter with a woman who reacted skeptically to one of his pieces:
To her, all my decisions seemed absolutely arbitrary — as though I could just as well have selected anything at all — and therefore there was no meaning, and that made it ugly.
So I told her that if I were to describe the way she was dressed, it might sound very much like what she’d been saying. For instance, she had feathers on her head. And she had this enamel brooch with a picture of ‘The Blue Boy’ on it pinned to her breast. And around her neck she had on what she would call mink but what could also be described as the skin of a dead animal. Well, at first she was a little offended by this, I think, but then later she came back and said she was beginning to understand.