Robert Rauschenberg and Donald Saff formed one of contemporary art's most renowned collaborative teams in 1972 during their first project at Graphicstudio. Donald Saff established his first prints and multiples workshop through the University of South Florida in 1968. At the time, Saff served as the chairman of the fine art department. His vision, which endured through several manifestations, was to establish a collaborative space for artists to work with technicians to solve problems related to their projects. At the same time, students worked directly with artists, such as Jim Dine and Philip Pearlstein, to execute prints and sculptures. In many ways, Saff sought to create a workshop similar to Gemini G.E.L. and Tamarind in Los Angeles. Early in the history of Graphicstudio, Robert Rauschenberg traveled to Tampa to create a project with Saff. The result was the Made in Tampa series in which the artist used detritus found on the streets of the city as materials to explore the space between art and life.
After a decade of working on projects through Graphicstudio, the team branched out to more ambitious goals. In 1984, Rauschenberg established ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange). This program came about through the artist's declared commitment to international peace during a time political strife. Rauschenberg believed "one-to-one contact through art" would lead to an understanding between people over issues of culture. To fulfill his goal, Rauschenberg and a team of craftsman traveled to eleven countries to create projects with local organizations, artists, and artisans. Some of the countries included Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Malaysia. For the traveling projects, Saff coordinated each endeavor. Rauschenberg created paintings, sculptures, combines, multiples, and prints under the umbrella of ROCI. For prints and multiples, Rauschenberg and Saff worked with a variety of workshops, such as ULAE (Soviet/American Array) and Gemini G.E.L. (Samarkand Stitches).
To execute the multiples for the United States portion of ROCI, Rauschenberg worked with Donald Saff at his recently established Saff Tech Arts. The product of this collaboration was the ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works). In 1989, Saff resigned from Graphicstudio to pursue personal goals including a private workshop. Rauschenberg began work on the series in 1990. The initial inspiration for the series evolved during the ROCI trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Rauschenberg was enthralled by the tin homes. Upon returned, they embarked to create a project using metal as the primary material. Instead of tin, Rauschenberg selected highly-polished reflective steel for the USA project. He commented, "Somehow, because we are such a young country, it seems to pick up as many outside reflections as possible" On the steel, Rauschenberg and Saff experimented various ways to screenprint an image. Through this process, they arrived at using hot wax on the metal to create an image. Ultimately, Rauschenberg named the series after the process. Upon finishing the USA (Wax Fire Works), the complete ROCI project was exhibited in 1991 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Examples from the ROCI USA were included. However, the entire edition was not finished until 1993.