Friday, November 2, 2007
Untitled, 1963. Oil, silkscreened ink, metal, and plastic on canvas, 82 x 48 x 6 1/4 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Purchased with funds contributed by Elaine and Werner Dannheisser and The Dannheisser Foundation. 82.2912. © Robert Rauschenberg/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
''In 1962, Rauschenberg first used commercially produced silkscreens to make large-format paintings based on his own photographs and found media images. These silkscreens may be considered an extension of the transfer drawings he executed between 1958 and 1962, in which he directly transferred the contents of newspapers and magazines onto sheets of paper. Since he could photographically enlarge imagery on the silkscreens, this process freed him from the scale restrictions of the transfer technique and allowed him to easily reuse images in varied contexts, and as he wrote in a text within his print Autobiography (1968), “Began silk screen paintings to escape familiarity of objects and collage.”
Barge, comprised of a single canvas measuring more than 30 feet in width, is the largest of the silkscreened paintings. This monumental work in black, white, and gray incorporates many of the motifs that Rauschenberg used again and again in his 79 silkscreen paintings: the urban environment, athletes, space exploration and flight, modes of transportation, and examples from art history. As was typical of his practice, Rauschenberg first explored this new medium in black and white; by summer 1963 he had introduced color. These paintings, including Untitled, best demonstrate the ways in which the artist exploited the imperfections of the silkscreen process, such as subverting a perfect registry by not aligning the screens or by not using all of the colors in the four-color process (blue, red, yellow, and black). The gestural application of color in certain areas and the addition of found articles (a technique reminiscent of his earlier Combines), like the metal and plastic objects in Untitled, assert their handmade nature. His works also include personal references. In Untitled Merce Cunningham, with whom Rauschenberg has collaborated on theater and costume design since 1954, is the central image. The use of recognizable popular imagery and the application of a commercial technique led critics to identify Rauschenberg with other artists working in this idiom, including Andy Warhol, who also began to use the silkscreen process in his work at this time.''