The artist Jasper Johns came up with the term combine for Robert Rauschenberg’s experiments in mixed media—his blending of painting and sculpture. Among Rauschenberg’s Combines, one particular series has rarely been seen. Its duration spread over decades, starting in the 1950s and ending in the early 80s, and it was conceived when Rauschenberg visited the kiln at the Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Company, in Shigaraki, Japan. In that small factory, Japanese masters reproduced iconic Western works—Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus—on panels of clay. Rauschenberg repurposed the panels, painting them and overlaying them with photographs of modern life. Over a 25-year period, he visited the country frequently, checking in with his friends at the kiln. Some of the Combines in this exhibition were first seen in 1982, at an exhibition at Leo Castelli. The rest have never before been outside Asia. —E.C.
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