Brooke Alexander Inc.
Robert Rauschenberg: Untitled
The front gallery is dedicated to lithographs Rauschenberg created between 1962 and 1965. Almost entirely monochromatic, this group represents some of the artist's earliest collaborations with the ULAE print studio. An important innovator in what would become known as the American Print Renaissance, Rauschenberg quickly adopted and expanded the print-making process. Works such as Rival (1963), Spot (1964) and Breakthrough I (1964) capture the moment where he began to radically absorb new techniques, combining the use of salvaged photoengraving plates (discarded by the New York Times) with gestural additions. Whereas earlier paintings relied heavily on collage and solvent transfer images, working with the printers at ULAE opened up a world of possibilities in how Rauschenberg incorporated and reused source material in his work.
Rauschenberg also pushed the limits of what was thought possible in print-making at the time, and his use of photo-silkscreens in the development of lithographic images became groundbreaking. Shades (1964) is a culmination of these experiences, as the lines between Rauschenberg's paintings, sculptures and prints become blurred. This work in particular introduces a level of technology and new materials (such as lithographing plastic sheets) that Rauschenberg would continue to profoundly pursue from that point on. The images in Shades are from the same NYT plates that were used in earlier works, but they have become interchangeable with one another. This idea of the photographic image as an object that can be subjected to both variation and repetition became central to the artist's work.
As a counter-point, the main gallery space is dedicated to displaying the entire Soviet-American Array series (1988-91), a group of 7 colorful photogravure prints. Enormous in scale, this series represents Rauschenberg's return to primarily utilizing his own photographs as source material.
This body of work was the natural evolution of Rauschenberg's ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange) program. Launched in 1984, ROCI was the artist's ambitious attempt to share "exotic and common information" in a non-elitist way on a global scale. Through this program he documented in photographs his travels to third-world and Soviet-bloc countries, bridging cultural divides and eventually leading to his invitation to hold the first solo-exhibition by an American artist in the Soviet Union. Based on Rauschenberg's own photographs of both New York and Moscow, the Soviet-American Array series represent a poignant moment in time, when the Cold War was ending, and the goals of his ROCI program came to fruition.
With their vibrantly colored and collaged imagery and physical stature, the prints in this series reflect the tall New York skyscrapers and Soviet monuments that they display. Gone are the busy and obscuring brushwork of the early 1960's prints. Here Rauschenberg lets images float and freely interact with one-another, a beautiful and subtle gesture towards peace and coexistence.
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