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Skyway, JFK, What Else Do I Have to Say?

April 15, 2010


Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964

One of my favorite works of art in the DMA’s collection is Robert Rauschenberg’s Skyway.  If you have dined in the Atrium Cafe, you have probably noticed Skyway hanging on the East wall.  It’s a very large work made of oil and silkscreen on canvas.  The canvas is covered with images of 1960s popular culture: astronauts, outer space, a freeway, construction equipment, and even a portrait of John F. Kennedy. 

Part of the reason that I love Skyway is because of Rauschenberg’s inclusion of Kennedy.  Ever since I was nine years old, I have been fascinated by JFK.  Between 4th and 10th grade, I did a report or presentation on JFK or his wife Jackie every year in school.  I don’t know what it is about them that I love–their youth, their glamour, his tragic death?  I think it’s probably a combination of all three.

With the Kennedys at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Washington, D.C.

Skyway is also one of my favorite works of art because it is a visual time capsule of the 1960s.   This canvas was created to hang on the facade of the U.S. pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.  It celebrates contemporary history, modernity, and the achievements of the United States.  We can look at this work of art and know what decade it represents based on the images that have been included. 

It’s also fun to think about what images would be included if a work of art like Skyway were to be created today.   Would we see Barack Obama?  Would we see symbols of new technology like the iPad or a flatscreen TV?  Would we see Miley Cyrus or Robert Pattinson, the icons of pop culture in 2010?  This is always a fun topic to explore with students on tours, and I always love hearing their responses.

To learn more about Skyway, or to explore other contemporary works of art in our collection, check out the Contemporary Art and Design online teaching materials.  You also need to come see Skyway at the Museum–it’s so much better in person!

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jan Alexander permalink
    September 26, 2013 10:35 am

    Shannon, I found this when I was searching for information to share with my students about Skyway and Robert Rauschenberg’s art that resulted from the turmoil and tremendous excitement that was the sixties. Do you have any suggestions? Are there posters at the DMA? Jan Alexander – Withers Elementary


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