Robert Rauschenberg

American (Port Arthur, Texas, 1925 - 2008, Captiva, Florida)

Trophy IV (for John Cage)

1961
sculpture | metal, fabric, boot, wood, tire tread, chain, paint, tape, and flashlight
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  • Trophy IV (for John Cage)

    Robert Rauschenberg, Trophy IV (for John Cage), 1961; metal, fabric, boot, wood, tire tread, chain, paint, tape, and flashlight, 33 in. x 82 in. x 21 in. (83.82 cm x 208.28 cm x 53.34 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY; photo: Ben Blackwell

  • View of Robert Rauschenberg's Trophy IV (for John Cage) without the flashlight

    View of Robert Rauschenberg’s Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961) without the flashlight, from a slide taken ca. 1961. Image courtesy the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

  • View of Robert Rauschenberg's Trophy IV (for John Cage) without the flashlight, published in 1961

    View of Robert Rauschenberg’s Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961) without the flashlight. Photo: Rudy Burckhardt, ca. 1961, courtesy the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; © Estate of Rudy Burckhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Pictured artwork © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

  • Installation view of Robert Rauschenberg's Trophy IV (for John Cage), Leo Castelli Gallery, 1961

    Installation view of Robert Rauschenberg’s Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961) in Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, November 7–December 5, 1961. Leo Castelli Gallery Records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

  • Installation view of Robert Rauschenberg's Trophy IV (for John Cage), SFMOMA, 2010

    Installation view of Robert Rauschenberg's Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961) in 75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show, SFMOMA, December 19, 2009–January 16, 2011

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Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961) is part of Robert Rauschenberg’s Trophy series, a group of five artworks dedicated to friends and collaborators, which the artist created between 1959 and 1962. Avoiding many of the usual connotations of the term trophy, Rauschenberg described these works as expressions of gratitude, explaining in a 1999 interview conducted in the SFMOMA galleries: “[When] you wanna thank somebody back who has given you so much, then there’s a new trophy.” Unsurprisingly, the list of individuals honored by the Trophy series includes many people with whom Rauschenberg shared deep connections throughout his life: artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and his wife, Teeny (1906–1995); artists Jasper Johns (b. 1930) and Jean Tinguely (1925–1991); dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009); and composer John Cage (1912–1992). A sixth Trophy, for artist Darryl Pottorf (b. 1952), was added to the series in 1994.

Rauschenberg and Cage met in 1951. They soon became friends and worked together frequently, particularly in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a period when Rauschenberg designed costumes and sets and Cage composed music for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Rauschenberg considered himself so closely aligned with Cage that he later referred to him as a spiritual and philosophical soul mate. Produced in fall 1961 and first shown at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in November of that year, Trophy IV (for John Cage) rests on a low wooden base that supports a variety of materials Rauschenberg found in the city streets, including a coarsely cut pipe, an antenna-like metal rod, and a large piece of crumpled aluminum sheeting. Positioned atop a strip of tire tread (likely in reference to Rauschenberg’s 1953 Automobile Tire Print, which Cage was instrumental in executing), the battered metal arcs upward, its form echoing that of the large leather boot that hangs behind it, suspended from a rudimentary wooden construction.

As befits a tribute to Cage, this dynamic and slightly mischievous sculpture was conceived as a sound work, meant to be “played” rather than simply regarded. Although the boot must remain still and untouched in a museum setting, its positioning in counterpoint to the twisted aluminum invites us to imagine what would happen if it swung forward, making contact with the metal as the artist intended. In the 1999 interview noted above Rauschenberg activated the sculpture in just this manner, repeatedly pulling the hanging boot back and allowing it to forcefully kick the adjacent metal form. He described the discordant noise this action created as “John’s music,” referring to Cage’s radical redefinition of music to include silence and all sounds, intentional and unintentional alike.


33 in. x 82 in. x 21 in. (83.82 cm x 208.28 cm x 53.34 cm)
Acquired 1998
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
98.303

Ownership, Exhibition, and Publication Histories

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combines, found objects, boots, flashlights, wood, music, movement

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