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Details
Robert Rauschenberg (B. 1928)
Untitled
signed and dated 'RAUSCHENBERG 1/60' (on the reverse)
solvent transfer on paper with ink, pencil and gouache and collage on paper
23 1/8 x 28¾ in. (58.6 x 73 cm.)
Executed in 1960.
Provenance
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired by descent from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

Robert Rauschenberg's combine drawings were born of an intense curiosity and desire to push the limits of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. Integrating elements of both painting and sculpture, these drawings often incorporated found objects, newspaper clippings and urban detritus applied directly to the surface of the drawing itself, alongside traditional brushstrokes and graphite renderings. Simultaneously gestural and restrained, the combine drawings integrated lowly materials within the realm of high art, affording equal status to both the printed word and the artist's hand.
The present work is part of an intensive period of experimentation that preoccupied Rauschenberg beginning in 1958, when he began the first transfer drawings and lasting until 1964, when he made his last Combine. It displays the lightened palette and noticeable balance of empty space and ground that preoccupied Rauschenberg during this fruitful period. The overall result is that of controlled chaos, a brilliant blend of rational, grid-like order and highly experimental, raw energy, a technique that links the artist to his friend and contemporary, John Cage, who he had first met in 1951.

Around this time, Rauschenberg began using quintessential American icons. Most notable in the present work is the inclusion, via solvent transfer, of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Rauschenberg most likely clipped the image from a newspaper like The New York Times, and applied the image, in a series of repetitions. In many instances, the image is distorted, barely readable as the President's face and in once case, flipped, turning the President on his head.
The image recalls that which would have been broadcast to thousands from one of Eisenhower's many televised speeches from 1960 and also looks ahead to the importance of his farewell speech of January 21, 1961, in which he warned of the military-industrial complex. In fact, Eisenhower is credited as being the first presidential candidate to manipulate the mass media, especially television imagery, in order to win the presidential election. Rauschenberg's first, large-scale inclusion of the President's likeness appears in Factum II of 1957, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
The drawing anticipates the fervor that would overtake the Pop Art movement and indeed the entire country during the 1960s. Rauschenberg's work, especially, increasingly incorporated iconic American imagery, though maintained a more personal, expressive quality than most of his contemporaries.





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