Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled, 1954
Acquiring this painting represented a big turning point for us. It was 1983, and we traded our van Gogh drawing so we could get it. That was at the time when we really committed to collecting contemporary art.
This painting is drenched in red paint.
But there are other details to look out for: a daub of blue, drips of orange, and pieces of cloth applied to the canvas. Art historian Katy Segal, at The Broad’s UnPrivate Collection talk.
KATY SEGAL AUDIO
The artist was extraordinarily empathetic in responding to things, whether a color, like the red we see here, a pattern, a heron or even a door.
Rauschenberg’s work brings the news, so to speak, and is always laced with clues to the artist’s life as it existed in the very moment the artwork was made. In this case, if you look carefully, you would find a newspaper with a date on it, of 1954.
The materials collaged into this work form a snapshot of what Rauschenberg encountered as he made this painting. The front page of the New York Times and the comic strip from the time called Pogo from the same paper. Rauschenberg had a voracious appetite for material culture and making it part of his art.
As Rauschenberg famously said “Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)”
It may seem that this work stands just between pop art and abstract expressionism and here there are elements of both. But Rauschenberg didn’t care to explain himself with art historical labels.