Rauschenberg completed Breakthrough II in 1965, using the same lithography stone as in Breakthrough I (Lot 17), despite the enlarged crack. With the original stone as a foundation, Rauschenberg also employed three additional stones to layer images and color, including a commercial eye chart and two stones with Rauschenberg's brushwork. Although both Breakthrough works are linked to one another and share compositions and imagery, Breakthrough II maintains its independence as a powerful work. Indeed, the developing erosion of the stone seems to echo the energy and inspiration of the artist, imparting the message that through chaos comes creation.
Breakthrough II was published in a larger format than Breakthrough I to enable greater visibility of the entire crack, the outline of the lithography stone and the found image of the eye chart. As he did in Breakthrough I, Rauschenberg continues to emphasize the disintegration of the stone and the causal relationship between order and chaos in his language of communication. Just as the crack splits the surface of the lithography stone, Rauschenberg's layers of images divide and subdivide the composition. The collage of photographs and brushstrokes at once flattens and expands the viewer's perception of space and depth while offering a multiplicity of associative meanings and mysteries. Rauschenberg's inclusion of the eye chart seems to encourage the viewer to reassess the process of seeing, and questions how one looks at the myriad of images presented in art and life.
Breakthrough II is particularly notable for the extensive brushwork that Rauschenberg included through his use of additional stones. As with all his works that involve photosilkscreens, Rauschenberg has assembled competing component elements, thereby encouraging contradiction, interaction and playfulness within a subjective hierarchy. The considerable breakthrough in Breakthrough II occurs because Rauschenberg grants the primary stone as much prominence as the other images, including the art iconography of the odalisque, the monumental stone warrior and the Statue of Liberty. The outline of the stone frames the composition, enclosing and ordering the juxtaposed images and negative space. No longer simply a compositional motif, the cracked stone becomes an important art object in its own right, and the resulting prints, in turn, are as capable of bridging the gap between art and life as were masterpieces of the past.