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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY,
American, 1952 - 2008
Sor Aqua (Venetian)
Wood, metal, rope, glass jug, and water-filled bathtub

118 x 118 x 41 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Caroline Wiess Law Foundation

Arts of North America

In 1964, Robert Rauschenberg became the first American artist to win the grand prize at the Venice Biennale. Almost a decade later he returned to Venice, drawing inspiration from the floating city in a new series of sculptures, including most notably Sor Aqua (Venetian). By ennobling an ordinary bathtub, Rauschenberg conjures an air of grace in decline.

For half a century, Texas-born Rauschenberg stood as one of the most prolific and celebrated figures in American art. With an artistic practice characterized by vigor, curiosity, and intellect, he continuously moved across the realms of painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, dance, and performance.

Sor Aqua alludes not only to Venice's canals but also to its grand, deteriorating architecture. Yet the rusted materials evoke something more ethereal: the levitating forms are both awkward and otherworldly. Floating in between the genres of sculpture and installation art, Sor Aqua sets up a powerful opposition of form and metaphor.