The Wish-Fulfilling Tree

Rauschenberg: Posters
German and Austrian Posters—War, Revolution, Protest: Recent Gifts to the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a polychromed wood carving in its collections, dating from the sixteenth century in Nepal, depicting the wish-fulfilling tree and under it Chintamani Lokeshvara, a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. There are six leaved branches on the tree (the carving stands several feet high), with birds and beasts and objects. The figure has its left leg bend behind it, right hand up and left hand down, palms extended.

This is the supreme compassion, reads the note, which grants all desires, mundane and spiritual. There is hardly a better way of describing Rauschenberg’s transmutation of images into visual language. If you imagine the ideal artist as perceiving the world and conveying it from eye to hand, you have Rauschenberg. The source of intake is visible in the combines.

A parallel exhibition of German and Austrian posters from the Jugendstil to the Nazis was marred by one of the Education Department’s famous errors, identifying Max Pechstein as an anti-Semite. He was dismissed from the Imperial Academy with Schönberg, and his works were exhibited as Entartete Kunst.

Robert Rauschenberg
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