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.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis, 1998
Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, November 7–December 5, 1961.
Rauschenberg: Werke 1950–1980, Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin, March 23–May 4, 1980. Traveled to: Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany, June 6–July 13, 1980; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark, September 20–November 25, 1980; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, Germany, December 4, 1980–January 18, 1981; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, February 4–April 5, 1981; Tate Gallery, London (as Robert Rauschenberg), April 29–June 14, 1981.
A Tribute to John Cage, Carl Solway Gallery, Chicago International Art Fair, May 7–12, 1987.
The Second Hiroshima Art Prize: Robert Rauschenberg, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, November 3, 1993–January 16, 1994.
Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, September 19, 1997–January 7, 1998. Traveled to: The Menil Collection, Houston, February 13–May 17, 1998; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, June 27–October 11, 1998; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, November 21, 1998–March 7, 1999.
Robert Rauschenberg, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 7–September 7, 1999.
Quotidiana: Immagini della vita di ogni giorno nell’arte del XX secolo, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporeanea, Rivoli-Torino, Italy, February 5–May 21, 2000.
Points of Departure: Connecting with Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, March 23–October 28, 2001.
Robert Rauschenberg at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 27–September 8, 2002.
Treasures of Modern Art: The Legacy of Phyllis Wattis at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, January 30–June 24, 2003.
75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 19, 2009–January 16, 2011.
A House Full of Music, Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Germany, May 13–September 9, 2012.
Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp, Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 30, 2012–January 21, 2013. Traveled to: Barbican Art Centre, London, February 14–June 9, 2013.
In addition to appearing in the special exhibitions listed above, Trophy IV (for John Cage) was shown in SFMOMA’s galleries in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 as part of rotating presentations of the permanent collection.
This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of June 1, 2014.
Öyvind Fahlström, “En gata full av presenter,” Konstrevy 37, no. 5–6 (1961): 176, 177 (ill.).
Andrew Forge, Rauschenberg (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1969), 27, 96 (ill.).
———, Rauschenberg (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970), n.p.
Dieter Ruckhaberle, ed., Rauschenberg: Werke 1950–1980, trans. Janni Müller-Hauck and Vincent Thomas (Berlin: Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin, 1980), 295 (ill.), 385.
Rudolf Joeckle, “Dokumentarist der Nachkriegsepoche,” Rheinpfalz, December 5, 1980.
Gabriele Nicol, “Mit dem Auto fuhr der Freund übers Papier,” Frankfurter Neue Presse, December 5, 1980.
Christa Von Helmolt, “Den Betrachter aus der Passivität locken,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 15, 1980.
Robert Rauschenberg (London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1981), n.p.
Reinhard Müller-Mehlis, “Robert Rauschenberg,” Weltkunst (Munich), March 1, 1981, 533 (ill.), 534.
Francis M. Naumann, Nancy Grove and Gail Levin, The Mary and William Sisler Collection (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1984), 272.
A Tribute to John Cage (Cincinnati, OH: Carl Solway Gallery, 1987), 34a, 34b (ill.).
Barbara Rose, An Interview with Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), 68–69 (ill.).
Roni Feinstein, “Random Order: The First Fifteen Years of Robert Rauschenberg’s Art, 1949–1964” (PhD diss., New York University, 1990), 274.
Seiji Oshima, Marjorie Welish, Takeshi Yoshizumi, et al., The Second Hiroshima Art Prize: Robert Rauschenberg (Hiroshima: Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 1993), 69 (ill.), 173.
Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, eds., Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 100, 149 (ill.).
Tim Marlow, “Robert Rauschenberg,” Tate: The Art Magazine 16 (Winter 1998), 44 (ill. only).
Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Rizzoli, 1999), 55 (ill.), 126.
Joachim Jäger, Das zivilisiert Bild: Robert Rauschenberg und seine Combine-Paintings der Jahre 1960–1962 (Klagenfurt, Austria: Ritter Verlag, 1999), 30 (ill.).
Robert Rauschenberg, video interview by David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 6, 1999. Unpublished transcript, SFMOMA Research Library and Archives, N 6537 .R27 A35 1999a, 42–45, 46–47, 51.
David Bonetti, “Rauschenberg Coup Cements SFMOMA’s Ascendance,” San Francisco Examiner, May 28, 1999.
David A. Ross, Nicholas Serota, Ida Gianelli, et al., Quotidiana: Immagini della vita di ogni giorno nell’arte del XX secolo, trans. Fausto Galuzzi and Marguerite Shore (Milan: Edizioni Charta; Rivoli-Torino: Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, 2000), 204–5 (ill.), 245.
Paul Schimmel, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: Combines (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005), 169 (ill.), 227, 306.
Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg: Works, Writings and Interviews (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2006), 79 (ill.).
Jan Garden Castro, “A New Sculptural Idiom: Robert Rauschenberg,” Sculpture 25, no. 7 (Summer 2006): 50 (ill.).
Bruno Marchand, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: Crítica e obra de 1949 a 1974 (Porto, Portugal: Fundação de Serralves, 2008), 100, 110 (ill.).
Janet Bishop, Corey Keller, and Sarah Roberts, eds., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 151n10, 432.
Joshua Shannon, The Disappearance of Objects: New York and the Rise of the Postmodern City (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 128, 129 (ill.), 130–31, 134, 211n60.
Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2010), 60 (ill.).
“SFMOMA 75th Anniversary: David White,” interview conducted by Richard Cándida Smith, Sarah Roberts, Peter Samis, and Jill Sterrett, 2009, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2010, 32. Accessed June 23, 2013. http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/sfmoma/interviews.html.
Carlos Basualdo and Erica F. Battle, eds., Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2012), 404 (ill.).
Ralf Beil and Peter Kraut, eds., A House Full of Music: Strategies in Music and Art (Darmstadt, Germany: Institut Mathildenhöhe, 2012), 336 (ill.).
Catherine Craft, Robert Rauschenberg (London: Phaidon, 2013), 69 (ill.).
This listing has been updated since the launch of the Rauschenberg Research Project and is complete as of June 1, 2014.
- Artwork title
- Trophy IV (for John Cage)
- Artist name
- Robert Rauschenberg
- Date created
- 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)
- Date acquired
- Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
- © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
- Permanent URL
- Artwork status
- On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900
Trophy IV (for John Cage)
By Jeffrey Saletnik, July 2013
Part of the Rauschenberg Research Project
Trophies are ghoulish objects. Often erected from pillage to celebrate a victory, they are material evidence of something conquered—wild game, a culture, an enemy. Historically, they have involved the display of severed heads, hands, feet, fingers, and toes to emblematize one’s power over another.