Oral history interview with Calvin Tomkins, 2015


Tomkins, Calvin, 1925- (Interviewee)
Clark, Mary Marshall (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Calvin Tomkins, 2015
Calvin Tomkins has served as staff writer for the New Yorker for over fifty years. He credits Rauschenberg for introducing him to contemporary art and has profiled Rauschenberg for the New Yorker, in addition to publishing Off the Wall: Robert Rauschenberg and the Art World of Our Time in 1980. Tomkins narrates the relationships and working processes through Rauschenberg's early work, leading to hi s critical acclaim at the 1964 Venice Biennial. Tomkins describes meeting Rauschenberg while covering a story on Jean Tinguely and forming a fast friendship. He characterizes Rauschenberg's organic workflow and profoundly sophisticated naivete as the source of his success. He discusses Rauschenberg's collaborations with John Cage and Merce Cunningham, as well as his romantic relationships with Jasper Johns, Sue Weil, and Steve Paxton. He addresses Rauschenberg's move to Captiva in 1970 and considers it the end of professional relationships which he would later seek to replicate through ROCI collaborations
Collection Name
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation oral history collection
Art critics; Abstract expressionism--20th century--United States; Art criticism--20th century; Artistic collaboration; Tomkins, Calvin, 1925-; Rauschenberg, Robert, 1925-2008; Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange; New Yorker (New York, N.Y. : 1925)
oral histories
Physical Description
37 pages
Note (Biographical)
Calvin Tomkins is a journalist and author known for his coverage of the New York art world. He served as a writer and editor for Newsweek magazine from 1957 to 1961 and began as a staff writer for the New Yorker in 1960, where he remains a regular con tributor. Tomkins has published over a dozen books, including Off the Wall: Robert Rauschenberg and the Art World of Our Time (1980), which remains one of the definitive texts on the artist (revised and reprinted as Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, 2005). Tomkins lives in New York City with his wife, writer Dodie Kazanjian
Interviewed by Mary Marshall Clark on March 21, 2015
Note (Provenance)
Calvin Tomkins, Gift, transferred from Columbia Center for Oral History Research 2019
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.