The Robert Rauschenberg Runt show is up at the PaceWildenstein Gallery in Chelsea.

It would be hard to over-estimate the importance of Rauschenberg to 20th and 21st century art. Born in Port Arthur Texas, Rauschenberg moved to New York in the late 1940's. He quickly developed a revolutionary style.

In the 1950's he started producing his ground-breaking combines, merging both painting and sculpture. They seem to invite the spectator into the art, through the use of chairs, ladders, and most remarkably, a stuffed goat.

Rauschenberg's works today sell for ten of millions of dollars. His innovations include transfer drawings, sculpture and silk-screen paintings. Rauschenberg can be seen as a tireless explorer, a kind of heroic world ambassador of art.

"I bet some artists think it's a job. I think it's a joy,” says Rauschenberg.

The show reveals Rauschenberg's genius for elevating the ordinary and commonplace into visual poetry.

"I think it's an acceptance of the normalcy of everything, every day around us,” says Rauschenberg.

His art expects the viewers to create their own stories. What is certain is Rauschenberg's ability to find beauty everywhere.

Longtime friend and fellow world-class artist Chuck Close offered his praise.

"He constantly reinvents himself. He's like the old Timex watch ö he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin',” says Close.

Modern dance icon Merce Cunningham collaborated with Rauchenberg in dance theatre.

“I think he's just great. We both decided if we could work together. So we did. We just did our last one together a month ago,” says Cunningham.

What advice would he give to artists today?

"Keep your curiosity alive and just stay on the edge of it, and enjoy yourself,” says Rauschenberg.

Robert Rauschenberg's “Runts” is at the PaceWildenstein Gallery on 25th Street. It's open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The show runs through February 16th.

ö George Whipple