Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg Untitled (Glossy Black Painting), ca. 1951; painting; oil and paper on canvas.

The painting featured above is very similar to the pieces that I have been producing. However the aims of Rauschenberg's approach or at least some of the the results may be different. These early fifties pieces have influenced the making of the backgrounds to may digital imagery.

Retroactive I 1964

Kite 1963

The above pictures Kite 1963 and Retroactive I 1964 are Rauschenberg's view of the landscape of media. He essentially deals with glut: mass communication, mass media, and the noise of radio, cinema and television: the city full of signs: billboards, electronic data streams and the world of traffic and congestion. The idea of glut in the 1960s and in the 1980s seems miniscule in comparison with the glut of the net and the multi channels available to us: Google, MySpace, Facebook, Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and whatever else exists.

What is interesting about these two works is that they seem to excavate the whole histories of media. Robert Hughes (1980 & 1991, pp. 345-6) has suggested that Retroactive showed how Rauschenberg like to excavate histories within a single image. The “red patch in the bottom right corner… is a silkscreen enlargement of a photo by Gjon Mili”, which Rauschenberg found in life magazine. According to Hughes Mili’s photograph was a carefully set-up parody of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912. “Duchamp’s painting was in turn based on Marey’s photos of a moving body. So…” according to Hughes “the image goes back through seventy years of technological time, through allusion after allusion; and a further irony is that, in its Rauschenbergian form, it ends up looking precisely like the figures of Adam and Eve expelled from Eden in Masaccio’s fresco for Carmine in Florence” (Hughes p. 346).

Above: Masaccio’s fresco from The Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence

Hughes, R. (1991) The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change London: Thames and Hudson.

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