In 1960, Tatyana Grosman gave a lithographic stone to Jasper Johns and simultaneously began his printmaking career and the alignment of her studio Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) with the rebirth of American printmaking. At ULAE, Grosman fostered a new creative environment where young artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and James Rosenquist made their first prints. When Grosman founded the modest space on Long Island, there was no other lithographic studio in the United States dedicated to the needs of the artist. Lithography, considered the most painterly of printing techniques, was largely absent from the artistic landscape in late 1950's America.
Robert Rauschenberg began printing with Grosman at ULAE shortly after and soon realized how improvisation lends itself to printmaking. The year 1963 was a momentous one for both Rauschenberg and Grosman. Grosman, who often declined to enter her artists’ prints in competitive exhibitions domestically, received a request to submit work to the Ljubljana Print Biennale. With little hesitation she sent Rauschenberg’s Accident (see Lot 82), printed in 1963, which won Grand Prize and great international recognition to ULAE.
Accident is one of Rauschenberg’s most important lithographs in his oeuvre. His embrace of the unexpected and adeptness at turning chance into virtue are underscored in this early print. He pulled only a handful of impressions before the lithographic stone broke in the course of printing. Rather than start again, he welcomed the rupture, visible as the long diagonal crack that bifurcates the stone and further embellished by the image with the limestone detritus inked and printed in the lower margin. As a result, a sweeping diagonal tears apart a field of gestural ink strokes. By titling the work Accident, Rauschenberg drew attention to the eccentric act of printing form a broken stone and the infinite potential of his source material.