‘Rauschenberg gives new power to the dynamic means of the cubists; he speeds up the simultaneous viewpoint befitting a more mobile observer and a faster changing world’ (E. H. Johnson, “The Image Duplicators— Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, and Warhol,” Canadian Art, Volume XXIII, No. 1, January 1966, p. 17).
In Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled photographic images float enigmatically across the paper on a variety of axes, creating an ethereal, stimulating representation of American culture with a dialogue of multiple associations. The juxtapositions of images are ignited by accents of lurid emerald green and canary yellow swathes of acrylic paint, which pop against the harmonious sky blue and pale pink frottage traces. Captivated by developments in technology, speed and the excitement of the Space Race in the 1960s, Rauschenberg has selected images which represent his fascination with the dynamic and enticing moment. Dating from the series of Transfer Drawings that Rauschenberg created throughout the 1960s, Untitled features images from newspapers and magazines which relate to the events surrounding the work’s date and the artist’s personal archive.
In Untitled, Rauschenberg combines images of a car racing driver, a game of dominoes, a scientific diagram of a human eye, a checkered flag, a car’s wheel, and a man reading. Read in multiple directions, dimensions and combinations, the composite narratives of the work are ambiguous and plural, in stark contrast to the straightforward clarity of his photographic source images. The dominant image of the racing driver is partially obscured in its cropped, rubbed and flipped rendition, creating multiple and simultaneous visual references to an airplane pilot in his cockpit and an astronaut in a space rocket. This ambiguity reflects the artist’s personal fascination with chance and enigma, which is also implicated in the image of the dominoes. A game which relies on chance, the image also plays on the notion of the domino effect, alluding to the progressions in speed and advances in technology which contributed to the excitement and stimulation of modern day America.
In Untitled, Rauschenberg used his characteristic technique of the Transfer Drawings, in which he soaked images from newspapers, magazines in a liquid solvent, lifting the printed image from its original paper, and pressed the images faced down onto his page, and rubbed with coloured pen and graphite to transfer the printed image onto a new sheet of paper. As a result of Rauschenberg’s frottage technique, the images are flipped on their axis and the paper takes on the texture of the rubbing surface. Rauschenberg’s combination of mass media sources and image making techniques in Untitled reflects the artist’s significant role in bridging the gap between art and life, away from Abstract Expressionism and towards a fresh Pop direction.
Untitled is presently offered from the collection of Roxanne Rosoman, wife of late the British artist, Leonard Rosoman O.B.E. RA. A painter, illustrator, printmaker and muralist, Rosoman began his career when his depictions of wartime London caught the attention of Kenneth Clark, the then director of the National Gallery. Clark appointed Rosoman as an official war artist, and he was posted to the Royal Marines in 1945. Rosoman was struck by the relationship between man and machine in modern warfare, intrigued by ‘all sorts of strange devices like radar indicators, pom-poms and planes with wings that fold up like a moth’s’. On his return to London, he taught at the Chelsea School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, where David Hockney was one of his students. Untitled was initially acquired from Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, one of the earliest and foremost supporters of Robert Rauschenberg.