The Erased Drawing

Jonathan Owen


If we think of Owen’s process of creating a drawing by removing parts of the whole, by taking away from an already existing image, we are reminded of the artist Robert Rauschenberg, who first instigated this concept as an artwork.

In 1953 Rauschenberg set out to push the limits of an artwork and the traditional notion of the artist as creator by using this type of action. He began by attempting to erase his own drawings, but decided that the original drawing needed to have some significance. if its removal from existence was to become noteworthy. Thus he created the Erased de Kooning Drawing. The story goes that he approached the artist Willem de Kooning, the famed and respected Abstract Expressionist, at his studio to ask for an image that he hoped to erase from the paper. De Kooning was reluctant but intrigued, so planned to make Rauschenberg’s ‘neo-Dada’ art act as difficult as possible. He presented the younger artist with a multi-media drawing, covered in layers of ink and crayon. It took Rauschenberg one month to re-present it as a relatively plain white piece of paper.

This subversive action of the 1950s has been described as a form of “genteel iconoclasm” by the curator Vincent Katz, a term that mirrors Owen’s “elegant vandalism” of today.


Image Credit: Erased de Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg, 1953: Collection SFMOMA © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation



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