Speaking of "the infinite possibilities of art" (see my last post) Robert Rauschenberg's work epitomizes that idea. One of the reasons he's one of my alltime favorite artists.
Besides his use of materials no one had put into a painting, or on one, or made into a sculpture/collage he called "combines" before (my favorite back when I first saw it was his cot size mattress and bedcltohes from the floor of his studio hanging on the wall and painted on etc.), he also created a foundation after he got wealthy to help poets, since poets never make the kind of money successful artists do. And one time in the late 1970s, when I was hurting for rent money and money to pay other bills to support my two older children (who were kids at the time and I was raising on my own in NYC), his foundation gave me enough to pay those bills for a couple of months.
He was not only one of the greatest innovators in the history of art, or culture in general, his art was like Bob Dylan's singing. It gave permission to a lot of people who might not have had the nerve to try it, because their voices, or what they wanted to try and do with them, were too far beyond what had always been considered acceptable for singing, or in Rauschenberg's case to use materials and techniques not used before (Ray DiPalma reminded me of how the poet Steve Shrader turned Ray onto Rauschenberg's technique for soaking newspaper pages, in Ray's case the funny papers, in lighter fluid and then placing them face down on paper (or any surface in Rauschneberg's breakthrough works) and rubbing the backs of them hard with a pencil to get a result not seen before Rauschenberg invented the technique, or at least made it widely known.
I took my ten-year-old to see the Rauschneberg retrospective of mostly his "combines" at the Met two years ago, and he didn't want to leave. Powerful impact in person, those breakthrough works. Which is why he's one of the greats. The world changed its ideas about what art could become, and what could become art, because of him. Can't undo that. And no matter what you think of his art (and I didn't love everything he did, just most of it), that's a pretty impressive accomplishment for anybody. In this case, Robert Rauschenberg.