In 1969, pop artist Claes Oldenburg put Mickey Mouse on the moon

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David Novros interesting choice for ‘Moon Museum’ for variety or reasons (08-15-14)

Super MoonThe Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission opens August 22 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. The headliner of the show is the Moon Museum, a thumbnail-sized ceramic chip that contains drawings by Bob Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, John Chamberlain, Forrest “Frosty” Myers and David Novros. A duplicate of the chip was surreptitiously placed on the leg of the Apollo 12 lunar lander, BeanIntrepid, and unwittingly delivered to the moon by astronauts Alan Bean, Richard F. Gordon and Charles Conrad, Jr. The Moon Museum has resided in the Ocean of Storms ever since.

It was Myers who orchestrated the Moon Museumproject, and he’s the one who chose the other five artists who would enjoy the distinction of being the first artists to send their work into outer space. It is interesting that Myers included Novros in the Moon Museum group. He was at the very beginning of his career in 1969, not far removed from the days in which he worked as a carpenter at both the Museum of Modern Art and a coop of artists called Park Place. In fact, Novros had yet to paint his first fresco at the time and it would be four more years before he’d do the one at MoMA.

David Novros 1“My first multi-paneled portable mural was shown at Park Place Gallery in 1966 with sculptor, Mark di Suvero,” Novros explains. “At that time, I continued to show regularly at galleries (i.e. Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles/New York, Bykert Gallery, New York, Riko Mizuno Gallery, Los Angeles, Texas Gallery, Houston) and museums for the next ten to twelve years. My work was bought by collections and museums, but it was not until 1970 that I was able to begin my work as a fresco David Novros 2muralist. Artist and dear friend, Don Judd generously asked me to make a fresco in his place at 101 Spring Street — just around the corner from my studio.” And ever since, he has made wall paintings wherever possible.

Novros’ first introduction to wall painting was as a child. “I was encouraged to paint on walls in our house, in our garage,” Novros told Michael David Novros 3Brennan in an October, 2008 interview for the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Art. “I used to make a yearly mural, paint it over, paint another one on it. I don’t remember if I was doing them because I wanted to do them or because my father told me I was a good painter and I ought to do them, or exactly why. But it became kind of a little ritual I did for about four years.”

His infatuation with wall painting was confirmed David Novros 4during his junior year at USC [1962] when the museum across the street [the County Museum in Los Angeles ] got four paintings by Clyfford Still that each filled one of the walls in the room in which they were displayed. “I was knocked out by them. It wasn’t even so much the paintings themselves … but the experience of going into a room and seeing paintings that were taking the place of the walls, more or less.”

IMG_0455Following graduation, Novros sojourned to Europe, spending a great deal of time in Spain, where he rediscovered that “painting could be something other than a rectangle hanging on a wall in a museum or gallery … [and] didn’t have to even be made of paint.” In France, he specifically sought out the paper wall paintings at the Matisse Museum in Cimiez. Travelling by train up the spine of Italy, he saw every possible fresco and mural he could see. The more he saw during that trip, the more convinced Novros became that he needed to break out of the paradigm of the picture. “It was that experience that showed me what was possible, in a true painting sense, for wall painting ….”

Following his return and a brief stint in boot camp after being drafted CRI_274959into the Army, Novros went to New York, eventually moving next door to James Rosenquist, who invited him on their first meeting to a party that turned out to be the launch of Rosenquist’s now famous F-111 painting. Another neighbor from down the block was Frosty Myers, who took an immediate liking to Novros’ wall paintings, admiring the shapes he used to move across a section of wall in a way that encouraged viewersDavid Novros Squareto move along the wall as well. “I used colors that changed as you walked along, the Murano colors [a powdered pigment which is suspended in clear lacquer], and even before that, metallic colors and other things.” He also employed materials and spray painting methods that made the paintings appear to shift in light. “I was trying to make paintings that could be seen by people in motion, and by light that was in motion. Not a fixed kind of gallery concept,” Novros told art writer Tom Butter in 2009.

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagMyers not only pushed Novros’ paintings, he hooked him up with Mickey Ruskin just as the latter was opening Max’s Kansas City. Ruskin needed someone to spray paint the plastic booths in the bar black and Novros did the job in one night. Ruskin bought two of Novros’ paintings, and Novros became a regular, meeting futureMoon Museum collaborators John Chamberlain (from whom “I really learned about risk”) and Andy Warhol in the popular artists’ hang-out.

Jade in Tbilisi 1Perhaps it was their personal friendship, or that Myers had the prescience to know that Novros was destined to launch a groundbreaking career in fresco and place making soon after the launch of Apollo 12, but whatever the explanation, Myers extended the Moon Museum invitation to Novros who, in 1969, was still looking for his “voice” while making large, abstract paintings on irregularly shaped, multi-paneled canvases with sensuous and 100_0193 (2)reflective surfaces created with multiple layers of Murano-glazed, brush-applied acrylic pigment that provided viewers with new types of perceptual and emotional experiences. “Even though they were in units, in pieces,” he explained during the100_0190 (4)Smithsonian interview, “they were like portable murals” that sought to communicate content through monochromatic color, geometric form and complex spatial issues that encouraged a kinesthetic viewing experience through the surface’s response to changing light.

“If you dramatically enlarge David’s drawing, you would have a good idea about how his paintings looked back then,” Myers told Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger in March of 2009. “The white lines in the drawing were the spaces that separated the panels in his large-scale works. David’s paintings were architectural.”

This architectural aspect is precisely what Novros would have most wanted to convey to space explorers or future generations of earthlings that might happen upon the Moon Museum in the Ocean of Storms. For Novros, large scale work like his movable murals and frescoes uniquely empower the viewer to commune with the paintings, to get in motion with the work, to become absorbed in the painted world. And they have this effect because they are non-pictorial, because the content is not confined by a delimiting rectangle.

Ironically, the Moon Museum project tasked Novros with the seemingly impossible challenge of conveying his expansive view of art in one corner of a tiny ceramic chip that is, in the final analysis, the very type of object that Novros eschewed and spent a lifetime trying to transcend.

Interestingly, Novros never mentioned the Moon Museum in any of the many interviews he gave later in life and, according to Dellinger, he gave his Moon Museum duplicate to his father and it was not discovered after his dad’s death among the numerous reviews and other mementoes that his proud father had kept unbeknownst to David.

Novros has exhibited in several prominent venues, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art in Dallas, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Bremen Museum of Modern Art in Bremen, Germany.

[N.B.: While many of David Novros’ murals still exist, other have either been destroyed or are in danger of being ruined. For example, the MoMA fresco (1973) was considered temporary and destroyed, the Penzoil fresco (1975) in Houston, Texas was moved to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and three related rooms for the exhibition “Rothko, Novros, Marden” have been relocated (one room is at the Fort Worth Museum of Fine Arts and the other two are at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas).]

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Deciphering John Chamberlain’s ‘Moon Museum’ grid drawing (08-12-14)

BeanThe Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Missionopens August 22 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. The headliner of the show is the Moon Museum, a thumbnail-sized ceramic chip that contains drawings by Bob Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, David Novros, Forrest “Frosty” Myers and John Chamberlain. A duplicate of the chip was surreptitiously placed on the leg of the Apollo 12 lunar lander, Intrepid, and unwittingly delivered to the moon by astronauts Alan Bean, Richard F. Gordon and Charles Conrad, Jr. The Moon Museum has resided in the Ocean of Storms ever since.

It was Myers who orchestrated the Moon Museum project, and he’s the one who chose the other five artists who would enjoy the IMG_0455distinction of being the first artists to send their work into outer space. At the time, John Chamberlain was at the apogee of his fame and critical acclaim, having built a reputation as the Manhattan bad boy who crafted vibrantly colored, dynamic sculptures from crushed, twisted and bent automobile parts. His work had been included in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1961 The Art of Assemblage exhibition, the 1964 Venice Biennale and several Leo Castelli Gallery shows. And inspired in part by his friend Andy Warhol,Chamberlain began directing films in 1968 that included Wedding NightThe Secret Life of Hernando Cortez and Wide Point.

“Everyone knew Chamberlain’s compressed metal sculptures, but he Chamerlain Grid 1couldn’t really contribute a full-sized crashed car for the Moon Museum,” quipped Myers in a 2009 interview by Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger. “[But by then] John … was candy-apple spraying (with an automotive finish) grids on small – maybe twelve-by-twelve inch – squares. The grid drawing [on the Moon Museum chip] is quite like the metal template that John was using at the time to make his panel paintings. He would paint the background color, then spray the grid of boxes with a metal-flake paint using the cut-out. It is possible that the ink drawing he made for the Moon Museum was simply traced from his stencil. It looks a lot like the outline of a stencil, and he did a number of paintings with the same basic structure.”

chambe3r21It’s true. Although even today Chamberlain is commonly associated with the powerful large-scale sculptures he made from automobile parts, by the late 1960s he had shifted to other mediums and materials, including two-dimensional paintings made with automobile paint. But he continued expanding his sculptural work, creating a series of white and chrome sculptures as well as others chamber21using ephemeral brown paper bags, Plexiglas or aluminum foil. He returned to automobile parts as his primary material in 1974, creating wall reliefs and freestanding sculptures in both small and monumental scales. While continuing in this direction, he also began working with still photography, an interest that continued until his death in 2011.

“Critics often saw his crumpled Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles as dark commentaries on the costs of American freedom, but Mr. Chamberlain rejected such metaphorical readings,” wrote New York Timesjournalist Randy Kennedy in his December 21, 2011 memoriam following the artist’s death. “He turned to making sculpture from other things partly because he grew so tired of the automotive associations.”

chamber1“It seems no one can get free of the car-crash syndrome,” he told the curator Julie Sylvester in 1986. “For 25 years I’ve been using colored metal to make sculpture, and all they can think of is, ‘What the hell car did that come from?’ ”

Chamberlain had his first retrospective in 1971 at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A second retrospective was organized in 1986 by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. His numerous honors included the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 1993, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the 100_2114 (2)International Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C. in 1993, The National Arts Club Award (New York, 1997), the Distinction in Sculpture Honor from the New York Sculpture Center in 1999, and a honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit the year before his death. As these awards and accolades attest, Chamberlain devoted his long and illustrious career to challenging traditional notions of sculpture and to eroding the boundaries between sculpture and painting by placing color on an almost equal Super Moonfooting with form. In contradistinction to the planned, methodical, often monotone or colorless approach employed by most sculptors of his day, Chamberlain brought an Abstract Expressionist gestural quality to his work, which took on a resultingly sudden, unexpected randomness that even his most ardent admirers frequently found unsettling, prompting art critic Peter Schjeldahl to write one time, “the mangle is the message.”

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagIt seems somewhat incongruous that the design Chamberlain chose for the Moon Museum is tight, orderly and likely traced from a stencil. Chamberlain would chuckle at the question implicit in the previous statement. “Everyone always wanted to know what it meant, you know: ‘What does it mean, jellybean?’ ” he told Julie Sylvester, adding: “Even if I knew, I could only know what I thought it meant.”

Chamberlain’s work is in the collections of dozens of museums, including the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art and Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y. But you can see his Moon Museumcontribution at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery beginning August 22. The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery is located on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College. For gallery days, times and directions, please call 239-489-9313 or visit www.RauschenbergGallery.com.

[N.B.: See below to read about Claes Oldenburg’s contribution to the Moon Museum. And to discover what Bob Rauschenberg wanted to convey with the drawing he included on the Moon Museum multiple, look for the next edition of ArtDistricts magazine.

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In 1969, pop artist Claes Oldenburg put Mickey Mouse on the moon (08-11-14)

Super MoonDriving my granddaughter back to her home last night, we were treated to a breathtaking view of the supermoon rising above a stand of slash pines on Alico Road. Next to her mom and stepdad, the precocious four-year-old loves art and Mini Mouse more than anything in the world. So I asked her if she could see Mini Mouse on the moon’s surface. Tru pulled her big brown eyes away from the yellow orb to study me in the Geometric Mouse 1rearview mirror from her car seat in the Nissan Titon’s backseat. “You’re teasing me, Poppy,” she declared at last. “Am not,” I said, pointing. “There’s a drawing of a Mini Mouse kite in the Ocean of Storms right there.”

Okay, so maybe the mouse depicted by artist Claes Oldenburg in his Moon Museum drawing is not of Mini. His iconic Geometric Mouse kite (bottom row, middle drawing) was derived from Mickey and directly related to the large-scale sculpture he had at the Museum of Modern Art at the time he did the rendering for the Apollo 12 mission. “There was something a little absurd about sending a cartoon to the Moon,” Moon Museum founder Forrest Myers conceded in 2009 to BeanBob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger. But “in the end, he [did] trump Disney in that his version was the first to make it to the Moon.”

Oldenburg was one of Pop’s most widely admired artists back in 1969. When he first arrived in New York City in 1956, he fully expected to make his mark in the world of art as a painter. But by 1960, he had come to realize that sculpture offered the best means for upending the art of his time. “The results,” concluded the New York Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with an Oldenburg retrospective it exhibited last year, “are some of the most audacious and provocative art objects of the twentieth century.”

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._Flag“I’d like to get away from the notion of a work of art as something outside of experience, something that is located in museums, something that is terribly precious,” Oldenburg declared in 1960. Culling his subject matter from the clothing stores, delis, and bric-a-brac shops that crowded Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Oldenburg’s Store sculptures depicted everyday items like shirts, dresses, cigarettes, sausages, and slices of pie. “Oldenburg made them from armatures of chicken wire overlaid with plaster-soaked Oldenburg Mouse 31canvas, using enamel paint straight from the can to give them a bright color finish,” noted MoMA. “At the gallery, the reliefs hung cheek by jowl, emulating displays in low-end markets.”

Oldenburg switched before long to sculptures composed of fabric. Oversized soft sculptures such as Floor Burger, Floor Cake and the 17-foot-long Floor Cone were hailed as groundbreaking artworks. “Their soft, pliant, and colorful bodies challenged the convention that sculpture is rigid and austere, and their subject matter and colossal scale infused humor and whimsy into the often sober space of fine art,” MoMA related. “With this work Oldenburg proposed an alternate form of monumental sculpture, saluting subjects from contemporary American life.”

Oldenburg Mouse 1But a new motif captured Oldenburg’s fancy soon after he moved his studio in 1965 to a loft on Fourteenth Street in Manhattan. That’s when Oldenburg began playing with the image of Walt Disney’s animated cartoon, Mickey Mouse. Oldenburg’s iteration combined Mickey’s form with that of an old movie camera whose square box and two circular film spools mimicked the famous mouse’s face and ears. Oldenburg dubbed his version Geometric Mouse, which he suggested was his alter ego, stating one time, “The Mouse, that’s me!”

Oldenburg Mouse 21Oldenburg began incorporating Geometric Mouse into everything he did. He used it as a symbol on the letterhead for his 1966 retrospective exhibition at The Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He used as the logo on a banner advertising his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969. He even tried to convince the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago that it should redesign its facade in the shape of a geometric CRI_274959mouse. The museum declined, of course. But Oldenburg was unfazed. When Forrest Myers approached him about including a sample of his work in an art museum he was secretly planning to send to the moon with the help of engineers at Grumman Aircraft and scientists at Bell Labs, Oldenburg immediately offered a drawing of Geometric Mouse for the clandestine project.

IMG_0455Oldenburg’s mouse was included on a postage stamp-sized, paper-thin ceramic wafer (using a then cutting-edge photo-reduction technique developed for micro-circuitry) along with work by Myers, John Chamberlain, David Novros, Andy Warhol and Bob Rauschenberg. A copy of the first-ever “Space Art” object was then surreptitiously attached to one of the legs of the Apollo 12 LEM 6 lunar lander, Intrepid, which landed in the Ocean of Storms on November 19, 1969. The Moon Museum containing Oldenburg’s Geometric Mouse has resided on the surface of the moon ever since.

But Oldenburg did not rest on his lunar laurels. In 1972, Oldenburg took his Mouse Museum to an international art exhibition in Kassel, Oldenburg Mouse 431Germany. Five years later, Oldenburg actually built a museum in the shape of Geometric Mouse using black-painted wood and corrugated aluminum for its walls.

Both Mouse Museums housed some 385 objects consisting of kitsch, toys, souvenirs, and prototypes for his own artworks that Oldenburg selected from his collection of more than a thousand such items. He Konstantin Vitrine Moon Chip Display Casearranged them in a loosely associative sequence, devoid of any judgment about their relative importance. Oldenburg’s second wife and collaborator, Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009), wrote that the collection offers a glimpse into Oldenburg’s working method and his perception of American society. By treating the included object in “an nonhierarchical way,” each maintains its100_2114 (2)own unique identity. “The collection represents many of the artistic questions that Oldenburg has dealt with throughout his career: unexpected scale, mutated forms, low art as high art, found objects, and alternatives to the traditional museum or gallery experience,” stated the Guggenheim in connection with an exhibition of the 1977 Mouse Museum that it staged from October 30, 2012 to February 17, 2013.

Tru Dat 1In the final analysis, Oldenburg regarded Geometric Mouse as a symbol of analysis and intellect, “autobiographical but not necessarily a portrait…[I]n other words, the mouse is a state of mind.” Last night, with moon according to NASA being some 31,000 miles closer to Earth than normal, it seemed like the perfect time to plant the idea in the mind of a four-year-old who spends hours upon end drawing, painting and making collages from everyday objects that there are no limits on creativity. As Claes Oldenburg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Forrest Myers, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg so amply demonstrated throughout their distinctive, ever-illustrious careers, art – really good art – evolves first and foremost from an open and receptive state of mind. Expand your own mind. The Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission opens at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on August 22, 2014.

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Moon Museum multiple lands at Bob Rauschenberg Gallery August 22 (08-08-14)

BeanIn celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the renaming of the Gallery of Fine Art at Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College), the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery’s Fall programming will focus exclusively on the enduring legacy and profound global (even “extraterrestrial”) impact of its namesake, artist Bob Rauschenberg. From October 22 through December 17, the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery will premiereRAUSCHENBERG: China/America Mix – the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work at the Gallery since his death in 2008. However, the Gallery is also delighted to announce that the first ever “Space Art” object will be landing at FSW in the meantime at its installation: The Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission (August 22 – September 27, 2014).

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagThe Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Missionwill present the little-known Rauschenberg/Experiments in Art & Technology (E.A.T.) project that clandestinely sent and permanently sited original artwork by six artists on the lunar surface in 1969.  A postage stamp-sized, paper-thin multiple, the Moon Museum was the brainchild of New York sculptor Forrest “Frosty” Myers. A group of the most significant artists of the time including John Chamberlain, David Novros, Claes Oldenburg, IMG_0455Andy Warhol and Bob Rauschenberg joined Myers in contributing individual drawings that engineers at Bell Laboratories transferred (using a then cutting-edge photo-reduction technique developed for micro-circuitry) onto a handful of identical ceramic wafers.  The first-ever “Space Art” object, one copy of the Moon Museum multiple was then surreptitiously attached to the Apollo XII lunar landing LEM 6, and has now, consequently, resided on the surface of the Moon for the last forty-five years.

As Rauschenberg’s artist-friend Forrest Myers has described it, “Darwinian evolution seemed to happen in fossil time, but seeing Man leave the Earth and step foot on the Moon was both instant and epic.”

CRI_274959Myers was inspired by the success of Apollo XI to propose sending art to the Moon – his art and the art of those artists he most admired. Wanting nothing more than to put something soulful up where typically NASA had left detritus and hardware behind, nearly a half century later, TheMoon Museum (with drawings by Rauschenberg, Chamberlain, Oldenburg, Novros, Myers and Warhol) is still a compelling art object and continues to resonate profoundly in the imagination.

Jade in Tbilisi 2Following the triumphant return of theMoon Museum from its first blockbuster presentation (an exhibition co-organized by the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery with support from the U.S. Department of State and National Geographic magazine) at the National Gallery of Art in Tbilisi, Georgia (former Soviet Union) last November, the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at FSW will allow Southwest Florida visitors the rare opportunity to view in-person one of the few original Moon Museum (1969) ceramic tile multiples (along with vintage NASA press photographs, film shot by Apollo XII astronauts and related mission-flown artifacts).

Bob by Kat EppleAnd to find out more about what Rauschenberg wanted to convey with the drawing he included on the Moon Museummultiple, look for the next edition of ArtDistricts magazine.

The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery was founded as The Gallery of Fine Art in 1979 on the Lee County campus of Florida SouthWestern State College/FSW (then Edison Community College).  On June 4, 2004, the Gallery of Fine Art was renamed the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, to honor and commemorate our long time association and friendship with the artist.  Over more than three decades until his death, the Gallery worked closely with Rauschenberg to present world premiere exhibitions including multiple installations of the ¼ Mile or Two Furlong Piece.  The artist insisted on naming the space the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (versus the “Robert Rauschenberg Gallery”) as it was consistent with the intimate, informal relationship he maintained with both our local Southwest Florida community and FSW.

The Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission opens August 22, 2014.

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First space art object lands at Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on August 22 (07-24-14)

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagIn celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the renaming of the Gallery of Fine Art at Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College), the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery’s Fall programming will focus exclusively on the enduring legacy and profound global impact of its namesake artist Bob Rauschenberg. But it will pave the way for that show with a tantalizing glimpse into Rauschenberg’s participation in a secret mission to take his art extraterrestrial by placing it on the lunar surface along with works by five other iconic artists of his time.

icover1From October 22 through December 17, the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery will premiere RAUSCHENBERG: China/America Mix – the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work at the Gallery since his death in 2008. “However, we are also delighted to announce that the first ever ‘Space Art’ object will be landing at FSW in the meantime with our installation: The Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission (August 22 – September 27, 2014).

IMG_0455The Moon Museum (1969): Apollo XII’s Secret Art Mission will present the little-known Rauschenberg/Experiments in Art & Technology (E.A.T.) project that clandestinely sent and permanently sited original artwork by six artists on the lunar surface in 1969. A postage-stamp-sized, paper-thin multiple, the Moon Museum, was the brainchild of New York sculptor Forrest “Frosty” Myers. A group of the most significant artists of the time including John Chamberlain, David Novros, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Bob Rauschenberg joined Myers in contributing individual drawings that engineers at Bell Laboratories transferred (using a then cutting-edge photo-reduction technique developed for micro-circuitry) onto a handful of identical ceramic wafers.  The first-ever “Space Art” object, one copy of the Moon Museum multiple, was then surreptitiously attached to the Apollo XII lunar landing LEM 6, and has now, consequently, resided on the surface of the Moon for the last forty-five years.

CRI_274959As Rauschenberg’s artist-friend Forrest Myers has described it, “Darwinian evolution seemed to happen in fossil time, but seeing Man leave the Earth and step foot on the Moon was both instant and epic.” Myers was inspired by the success of Apollo XI to propose sending art to the Moon – his art and the art of those artists he most admired.  Wanting nothing more than to put something soulful up where typically NASA had left detritus and hardware behind, nearly a half century later, The Moon Museum (with drawings by Rauschenberg, Chamberlain, Oldenburg, Novros, Myers and Warhol) is still a compelling art object and continues to resonate profoundly in the imagination.

moon_museum_19.11Following the triumphant return of theMoon Museum from its first blockbuster presentation (an exhibition co-organized by the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery with support from the U.S. Department of State and National Geographic magazine) at the National Gallery of Art in Tbilisi, Georgia (former Soviet Union) last November, the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at FSW will allow Southwest Florida visitors the rare opportunity to view in-person one of the few original Moon Museum (1969) ceramic tile multiples (along with vintage NASA press photographs, film shot by Apollo XII astronauts and related mission-flown artifacts).

100_0171 (4)The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery was founded as The Gallery of Fine Art in 1979 on the Lee County campus of Florida SouthWestern State College/FSW (then Edison Community College). On June 4, 2004 the Gallery of Fine Art was renamed the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, to honor and commemorate our long time association and friendship with the artist. Over more than three decades until his death, the Gallery worked closely with Rauschenberg to present world premiere exhibitions including multiple installations of the ¼ Mile or Two Furlong Piece.  The artist insisted on naming the space the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (versus the “Robert Rauschenberg Gallery”) as it was consistent with the intimate, informal relationship he maintained with both the Southwest Florida community and FSW.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The gallery is closed on Sundays and holidays. For additional information, please call: 239-489-9313 or visit www.RauschenbergGallery.com.

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News from the ‘Moon Museum Exhibit’ in Tbilisi (11-20-13)

moon_museum_19.11The Moon Museum exhibit opened yesterday at the Georgian National Museum Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery in Tbilisi. Co-curators Jade Dellinger and Catherine Kurtanidze set the date to coincide with the 44th anniversary of the Intrepid‘s landing on the lunar surface on November 19, 1969. As the Apollo 12 lunar lander carried a ceramic chip containing drawings by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg and Forrest “Frosty” Myers, astronauts Alan Bean, Charles “Pete” Conrad and Richard Gordon thereby established the first art museum in outer space.

Jade in Tbilisi 1“One additional note about the significance of the Moon Museum project here,” adds Dellinger, “it was nearly 25 years ago that Bob Rauschenberg actually visited Georgia, while it was still under Soviet control. In 1990, he traveled to Leningrad, Samarkand and Tbilisi, and I met a couple who attended the opening tonight who had hosted Rauschenberg here ….”

IMG_0455Dellinger’s copy of the Moon Museum ceramic chip (which he obtained on eBay from the descendant of one of the engineers who worked on the Apollo 12 mission) was placed on display in Tbilisi last night, along with Apollo 12 artifacts such as kapton foil and commemorative coins made of metal flown to the moon. But the exhibit also contains tantalizing newly-commissioned work by a number of prominent contemporary artists whose contributions add to, and expand upon, the art and technology theme first espoused by Robert Rauschenberg in the early 1960s.

One of those artists is multi-disciplinary visual artist Konstantin Mindadze, a member of renowned Dutch art society “Arti et Amicitiae” in Amsterdam. Konstantin Vitrine Moon Chip Display CaseMindadze is one of the most significant figures of Georgian contemporary art scene. Associated with Minimalism and Conceptual Art, he is best known for controversial large-scale multimedia environmental installations that contain and combine elements of painting, drawing, sculpture, objects, photography, video and sounds. Synthetic structure of the world, mental and biological reactions, life cycle and death, existence and transience, love and loss, globalization and technologies, fears and religions, consumerism and commercialism, historical facts and processes of decay are all key themes in Mindadze’s work.

Apollo 12 AstronautsRocko Iremashvili created large scale portraits of astronauts for the Moon Museum exhibit that precisely reflect the real emotions of astronauts and revive the real history of the race to conquer outer space. Since 2008, he has organized thirteen personal project – exhibitions. Usually his solo projects wear the same individual features. His thematic content is related to local as well as global social problems, political criticism and protest. His main direction is painting, but during recent years, Iremashvili has been actively working in different media, particularly sculpture, video and object.

Manuchar's Gravity Defying Hanging SculptureManuchar Oqroscvaridze’s Moon Museum sculptures reflect the principles of weight and imponderability. Since 1994, Oqroscvaridze has been taking an active role in international as well as local group projects. During the past few years, the main direction of his art has been a minimal drawing together with an object, where he expresses “short visual messages” or “Esthetical Ideographs.” He was a founder of (critical) art magazine Impression in 2008. Jade in Tbilisi 2His recent, remarkable projects include an exhibition of conceptual drawings “macula” in 2011 and solo project “EXISTERE” in 2012. These projects were inspired by current social themes related to one of the most significant questions of existentialism, self-identification, as well as by social status, condition of unstable abilities, inner and apparent conflicts and time. The artist lives and works in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Also included in the exhibit are works by Richard Serra and On Kawara. The exhibition was made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi and National Geographic Magazine.

Plans are afoot to take the Moon Museum on the road after it concludes its run in Tbilisi in December. Hopefully, the exhibit will make a stop at co-curator Jade Dellinger’s new home at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Edison State College.

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‘Moon Museum’ exhibit in Tbilisi full of intrique, mystery and bravado (11-18-13)

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagThe Apollo 12 mission was organized to collect seismologic, scientific and technical data from the moon, and deepen seleonologic observation. The mission was flown by astronauts Alan Bean, Charles “Pete” Conrad and Richard Gordon. Although they did not know it at the time, Bean, Conrad and Gordon also became the first museum curators in space.

The Moon Museum was the brain child of Forrest “Frosty” Myers, who wanted to leave something behind on the moon more than mere detritus. “My idea was to get six great artists together and make a tiny little museum that would be [left behind] on the moon,” Myers later explained.

CRI_274959Besides himself, he invited Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, David Novros, John Chamberlain and Claes Oldenburg to participate. Each artist created a drawing. The collection was then printed (using thin film lithographic photo reduction similar to the micro-circuitry used in phones at Bell Labs) onto a thin ceramic wafer roughly the size of a thumbnail. As many as 20 chips were imprinted with these drawings, and with the assistance of an unnamed Grumman employee, one of them was surreptitiously attached to one of the Apollo 12′s LEM-6 landing legs and sent to the moon. When the Intrepid landed in the Ocean of Storms on November 19, 1969, the lunar module established an ersatz art museum on the surface of the moon.

“Going to the moon was the biggest thing for our generation,” recounts Myers. “We had stepped off the planet,” and neither he, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Chamberlain or Oldenburg had any intention of being left behind.

HistoryDetectives1According to an episode of PBS’ History Detectives that aired in 2010, Myers was working with two Bell Labs engineers back in 1969. He gave them the drawings created by the Moon Museum Six. The engineers promptly shrunk and etched the drawings onto the ceramic chips, and they secretly passed one of these chips to a Grumman employee known enigmatically as “John F.” While Apollo 12 was still sitting on the launch pad, John F sent a telegram to Myers stating, “You’re on. A O.K. All systems are go.

HistoryDetectives2New Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger thinks it’s just the type of techno-heavy clandestine affair that would have appealed to Bob Rauschenberg during his self-proclaimed “dude period.” One of his pet projects from the late 1960s was the short-lived Experiments in Art and Technology (subsequently referred to as E.A.T.). That’s where he met and fostered a strategic relationship with Billy Kluver, an imaginative engineer with a penchant for the avant-garde. With backing from IBM, E.A.T. hosted nine evenings of theatre and engineering at the Armory on Lexington Avenue and 25th Street in lower Manhattan. Ten artists (including Rauschenberg), 30 engineers (including Kluver) and 500 volunteers took part.

It was a raucous affair.

mudmuse“Frank Stella played tennis using a racket equipped with a tiny transmitter that amplified the noises and turned floodlights on and off,” wrote John Richardson about the event for Vanity Fair in September of 1997. “A piece called Spring Training involved 30 rented turtles … which crawled about the stage with flash lights strapped to their backs. But after Rauschenberg’s Mud Muse – a huge vat of industrial drilling mud which bubbled and burped in response to auditory signals – set off a frenzy of mud throwing and smearing at the opening of an E.A.T. show in Los Angeles, support evaporated.

merge2Nevertheless, E.A.T. attracted a coterie of inspired engineers who came to share Rauschenberg’s conviction that technological innovation could, and in time would, advance art. And joining Kluver in that belief was Fred Waldhauer, an engineer who worked on the lunar module at Grumman Aerospace and may have been the mysterious John F.

Lending credence to that supposition is the fact that Waldhauer wound up with a copy of The Moon Museum chip, which his wife, Ruth, donated to New York’s Museum of Modern Art following her husband’s death. Today, at 9/16 x 3/4 of an inch, The Moon Museum chip is the smallest item in MoMA’s permanent collection (MoMA Number 124.1993).

IMG_0455Columbia University historian Gwendolyn Wright interviewed astronaut Alan Bean in 2010 for the History Detectives’ segment on The Moon Museum chip, but Bean claimed to know nothing about it. However, another Grumman employee who served as launch pad foreman during the Apollo missions told Wright that launch pad crew members regularly hid objects aboard the Apollo spacecraft as a way of connecting themselves personally to the race with the Soviets and the cachet of being represented on the moon.

While it may be impossible short of a return trip to ever definitively prove that The Moon Museum chip actually sits on the lunar surface, it is similarly impossible to prove that it doesn’t. Which adds to the aura of the remaining chips.

Konstantin Vitrine Moon Chip Display CaseNew Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger is the proud owner of one of those chips, and he’s using it to burnish Robert Rauschenberg’s already silvery legacy. Dellinger’s chip will serve as the centerpiece of The Moon Museumexhibition that opens at the Georgian National Museum Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery in Tbilisi tomorrow – on the 44th anniversary of Intrepid’s touch down in the Ocean of Storms.

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New gallery director taking Bob Rauschenberg to the moon via Tbilisi, Georgia (11-17-13)

Bob by Kat EppleIn 1980, Robert Rauschenberg launched the most ambitious project of his career. He called it ROCI after his pet turtle, but his mission was to “introduce the world to itself.” Today, new Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger is in the Republic of Georgia carrying out RR’s mission of changing societies both here and abroad through collaborative art and cultural projects and exhibitions.

Rauschenberg invited 22 countries to participate in R.O.C.I., an acronym for the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange. Besides the United States, ten accepted: the U.S.S.R., China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Cuba, Tibet and Malaysia. RR “took a group of his assistants to each of these countries so that they could interact with local artists, artisans, poets and people in the street in order to create a series of artworks,” recalls art critic John Richardson in a piece he wrote in 1997 for Vanity Fair.

Jade in Tbilisi 1“In China, he had to contend with a hostile bureaucracy before being permitted to work in Jingxian, at the world’s oldest paper mill,” Richardson recounts. “Wherever they worked, Rauschenberg’s charm and persistence overcame all obstacles. And when the ROCI panels were finally shown at the National Gallery in Washington, they made the world seem smaller and friendlier, and very Rauschenbergian.”

220px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagWhile the Rauschenberg Gallery’s new Executive Director is not creating artworks per se, the exhibition he is curating this month in Tbilisi is a performance piece par excellence. The Moon Museum Exhibition pays homage to Rauschenberg’s conviction that technological innovation would shape the future of art and caters to the Georgians’ abiding fascination with the Sputnik-initiated Space Age whose highlight was the six manned lunar landings that occurred between July 20, 1969 and December 11, 1972.

IMG_0455For Georgians, the Space Race between the Soviets and their U.S. counterparts in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was like an extension of the track and field competition in the Summer Olympics. And thanks to Dellinger, they are about to find out that Bob Rauschenberg was one of six artists who secretly went to the moon. No, not physically, but via a tiny, lightweight ceramic chip containing their work that was putatively smuggled aboard the Apollo 12 lunar lander, Intrepid, creating a permanent art gallery in the Ocean of Storms as of November 19, 1969.

“I’m not entirely sure how many chips were made,” says Dellinger. “I know of eight. Each of the six artists got one, there’s the one that’s on the moon, and,” he adds with a Cheshire Cat grin, “I have one as well.”

What? ”

Jade in Tbilisi 2One of the chips surfaced on eBay one day,” Dellinger discloses. “I’d heard rumors of Bob Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol being the first artists in space, so I sent a quick email to the seller, who turned out to be a descendant of one of the engineers on the Apollo 12 mission and we consummated the sale.”

Manuchar's Gravity Defying Hanging SculptureThe chip, which is about the size of a thumbnail, will be displayed in a “rather beautiful blue illminated vitrine display case” that has been designed for the Moon Museum Exhibition by Georgian artist Konstantin Mindadze,

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