"The one thing that has been consistent about my work is that there has been an attempt to use the very last minutes in my life and the particular location as the source of energy and inspiration, rather than retiring to some kind of other time, or dream, or idealism."
(Robert Rauschenberg as quoted in Robert Rauschenberg: Transfer Drawings from the 1960s, exh. cat., New York, 2007, p. 17).
In 1958 Robert Rauschenberg began making his transfer drawings as a kind of graphic extension of his Combines. Created by pouring lighter fluid onto a printed magazine image, pressing it against the paper ground and rubbing the back of it with a pencil to transfer the image; these works were, like the Combines, an entire world of disparate imagery and material. Always bound by a thematic relationship, Rauschenberg often reused images and adhered to combinations he found pertinent and expressive of his surrounds. In this prominent example from the Heineman Collection, flashes of the iconic imagery of the period, including an American flag, President Nixon, fashion advertisements and GMC motor trucks are reimaged with colorful brushwork and sketchy graphite lines that further the poignancy and visual dynamism of his signature collage drawings.
Untitled is an exceptional example of Rauschenberg's best transfer drawings. There is a tremendous amount of layering and permeation in color and form that animate this work beyond its graphic sources. Like Cy Twombly in his Roma series, Rauschenberg has adopted a language of markings that are graphic and expressive yet also work together to build a unified whole; a landscape or time capsule revealing images and processes that remain telling and of their time.