by Jerry Saltz
"Robert Rauschenberg: Combines," Dec. 20, 2005-Apr. 2, 2006, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10028
Even those of us who revere the work of Robert Rauschenberg have to admit that his mad esthetic output, while jovial and fearless, borders on being suicidal and squandering and can lead to art that peters out, turns theatrical or becomes formulaic. Although Rauschenberg contributed enormously to postwar ideas about agglomeration, order, appropriation, duplication, assemblage, collage and photo-into-painting, his esthetic garrulousness often turns his work into a department store: something scanned, not studied. Unlike Jasper Johns, whose art relies heavily on people talking almost ad nausea about every detail, Rauschenberg is so convinced that all things in the world are equal that the work itself often equals out and gets slushy in the mind. He is a sort of artistic suicide bomber: a true believer who is unafraid to have his work look cruddy.