"The use of the familiar is obscure, the use of the exotic is familiar. Neither sacrifices completely its origin but the mind has to travel to follow just as the eye has to change focus. In the end a viewed painting has been an invitation not a command" (R. Rauschenberg, 'Öyvind Fahlström (1961)', Art and Literature 3 (1964), p. 214).
Juxtaposing metal screen, silkscreen and painted aluminum, Garlic Ember (Shiner) is among the finest examples of Rauschenberg's extraordinarily fertile imagination. Commanding a voracious and freewheeling grasp of materials and techniques, Rauschenberg had experimented with ways to release himself into an expressive artistic vocabulary that would mimic the speed, flux and derangement of contemporary life. Garlic Ember (Shiner) reveals the artist in the heat of his creative energies as he transformed his radical three-dimensional painting-sculptures into two-dimensional combinatorial systems. Through juxtapositions and overlapping, through oppositions between density and transparency, Garlic Ember (Shiner) is a summation of Rauschenberg's ability to offer and withhold, to leave meaning unresolved. Plumbing the areas between art and life, Rauschenberg's work is an investigation of boundaries. Fusing painting, sculpture, photography and print-making with the objets trouvés of urban detritus, the artist has earned a unique position in twentieth-century art; indeed, his ability to erase barriers between genres and combine disparate elements has rendered him a model for subsequent generations. Garlic Ember (Shiner) finds Rauschenberg at the height of his prowess, channeling his decades-long explorations into a mélange of techniques, subjects and materials.