Robert Rauschenberg died last week. That makes it, I suppose, the end of an era. There’s no question that Rauschenberg changed art — the way it’s practiced, the way it is received, the things you can do and still call it art. Contemporary art is Rauschenbergian. Even Warhol, the other father of contemporary art, owes the man a massive debt.

The simplest way to explain what Rauschenberg did is to say that he made the canvas three-dimensional and worldly. Or to put it another way, he thought of the canvas as something you could walk inside and inhabit. There’s a famous quote that has come to define Rauschenberg’s practice. It goes, “I operate in the gap between art and life.”

There’s a piece by Robert Rauschenberg that now lives at the MoMA. It’s called “Bed” (1955). It isn’t… More…