In the mid-1950s Robert Rauschenberg began making what he called â€œCombinesâ€—radically experimental works that mix paint and other art materials with things found in daily life. These hybrid creations offered a dramatic counterpoint to the gestural abstraction that prevailed in contemporary American painting. Canyon (1959), one of the artist's best-known Combines, is a large canvas bearing paint, a postcard, a man's shirt, photographs, newspaper clippings, wood, a flattened metal can and paint tube, a piece of glass, and, thrusting out from its surface, a stuffed bald eagle. Leah Dickerman's essay examines the genesis of this startling and enigmatic work and positions it within a key period in Rauschenberg's groundbreaking career.
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