ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota
What is Art?

Art and Artists
Africa, Zaire
England, Higham Manor, Suffolk
Donald Judd
New Mexico (Mimbres)
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Thailand (Blue Hmong)
Robert Rauschenberg

Inner Worlds Environment   Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Robert Rauschenberg
Discussion Questions/Activities

Leo Castelli, the art dealer who sells Robert Rauschenberg's work, commented, "Bob once wanted to be a preacher. He is a preacher still." Does Rauschenberg have a message for his viewers? What do you think it might be? Does he make conceptual Art?

Was Rauschenberg concerned with the formal skills and techniques of art?

What is the mission of a social activist? Is it the same mission as a teacher?

Do you think it is important to know the intended message of the artist?

Use a piece of Masonite at least 16 x 18 in. as a base. You will make a plaster life-mask of your own face using plaster cloth.

Working with partners, one will be the artist; one the model. Then you switch places. Protect the models' hair by wrapping plastic wrap around it and tie the plastic in a knot in the back. Protect skin by applying Vaseline to the face, and putting round paper-towel eye patches over eyes. Wear a garbage bag over clothing. The model should sit in a chair with head back, while the artist will dip plaster cloth strips (3 x 4 in.) into water, drip, and apply to face. Avoid eye and nostril areas. The mask will dry in approximately three to four minutes and can be removed easily.

Set up for mask
Set-up for life-mask plastering.

Continue to plaster the life-mask onto the Masonite. Let it dry.


Choose a theme for you life-mask. Using the combine technique of Rauschenberg, incorporate at least one found object in to the mask. Add other visual expressions connected to your chosen topic. Paint with acrylic or oil paint. Name your artwork. Extension: Study Andy Warhol's social commentary by examining his silkscreen works. Discuss what Warhol and Rauschenberg have in common.

The mask on the right is an example of work done by an 8th grader in Minnesota. The students in this class were asked to research a culture, choose several symbols from the culture and create a metaphorical mask that would deliver a message to the viewer. This mask represents the "culture of adolescence" and displays headphones, telephone, sunglasses, purple hair, a red heart and an open mouth (left for the viewer to interpret). American Adolescence
Minnesota 8th grade
mask "American
Adolescence," 1996,
plaster cloth, clay,
found objects.


Atkins, R., Art spoke, New York: Abbeville Press. 1993.

Benzi, F., E. Busmanti and A. Sbrilli, The History of Art, New York: U.S. Gallery Books. 1989.

Brommer, G. F. (ed.). Discovering Art History. Worcester, Mass.: Davis. 1988.

Carroll, N. "Avant-garde art and the problem of theory." Journal of Aesthetic Education, 29(3), 1-13. 1995.

Fineberg, J. Art Since 1940. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 1995.

Forge, A. Rauschenberg, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1972.

Kotz, M.L. Raushenberg, New York: Harry Abrams Inc. 1990.

ROCI: Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 1991.

Swartz, S. (ed.) Walker Art Center - Painting and Sculpture from the Collection New York: Rizzoli Publications, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. 1990.

Vocabulary Terms

conceptual art--Art that focuses on the idea expressed and the process of creating the work.

formal skills--The elements and principles of design (line, shape, color, texture, balance, unity, etc.)

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Inner Worlds | What is Art? | Environment | Designing Spaces and Places | Identity
About the Art | About the Artist | Discussion Questions/Activities | Teacher Lessons