LONG BEACH.- The Long Beach Museum of Art received several gifts of prints by artist Robert Rauschenberg in the 1970s and 1980s. A selection of prints is on view in the Museums Ridder Gallery June 20 through October. Rauschenberg was instrumental in changing the approach to printmaking in fine art studios. Publisher Tatyana Grosman of Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) on Long Island, New York invited Rauschenberg to make prints in 1962. Master printer Kenneth Tyler of Gemini G.E.L. said of working with Rauschenberg, Work with him and you get his life, spirit and energy. Hes the only two-way street in the art world. Tyler believed that Rauschenberg set out to give lithography the state of a major art form. Sidney Felson of Gemini added, Bobs single biggest gift to lithography was the combining of photo images and hand-drawing.
Rauschenberg changed arts visual vocabulary with his fusion of painting and sculpture--called combines--that introduced the commonplace in varied forms. The untitled print seen here showing a sketch for his renowned goat and tire combine, Monogram, is representative of the enormous shift that Rauschenberg and fellow artist Jasper Johns made in fusing the expressionism of the New York School of painting into an emerging movement of Pop Art. In his printmaking, Rauschenberg embraced the figurative image, indeed, the everyday images of advertising and news media, and reintroduced them back into the fine arts. Art historian Leo Steinberg described Rauschenbergs contribution as a pictorial surface that let the world in again.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1925, Rauschenbergs first solo exhibition was at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in 1951. He moved to New York in 1949 where he was introduced to the works of the Abstract Expressionists. At Black Mountain College in 1952 in North Carolina he joined with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and John Tudor in a multimedia performance that has been called the first happening. This was followed by his first combines, collage-paintings incorporating found objects. In the 1960s he incorporated reproductions from magazines and newspapers. Rauschenbergs art has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions throughout the country. At the Long Beach Museum of Art, Rauschenbergs work was included in American PortraitsOld and New in 1971 and Currents, Cardbirds, Horsefeathers, Thirteen Prints by Robert Rauschenberg in 1982. Rauschenberg Currents was presented at the then Pasadena Art Museum in 1970. Rauschenberg moved to Captiva Island, Florida in 1970 where he began the Cardboard seriesone-of-a-kind assemblagesout of which the Card Bird limited edition prints evolved.
Card Birds I and II were gifts to the Museum in 1973 by Jack Glenn Graphics. Surface Series Currents were given to the Museum by John Marvin in 1980. The New York Collection for Stockholm, 1973, was a gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Buffum to the Museum in 1974. Rauschenberg was a founding member of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art & Technology) which printed the portfolio at Styria Studio. Fostering working relationships between artists and engineers was the founding principle of E.A.T. established by Rauschenberg and others with Bell Laboratories research scientist Billy Klüver in 1966.
Surface Series: Currents
Rauschenberg said of Currents that the source, newspapers, would admit no color and that the subject was dictated largely by the often distressing headlines. Both versions Features and Surface Series prints were inspired by a set of collages made from newspapers of the time, cut, torn or folded. They were raw and direct. For many artists, the state of the world in the 1970s seemed to cry out for change and healing. Of Currents, Rauschenberg wrote, The world condition permitted me no choice of subject or color. Everyones independent devotion is the only vehicle that can nourish the seed of sanity that is essential in the construction of change that makes all the difference in the world.
Surface Series: Currents was based on collages of images excerpted from newspapers and magazines. In the collages, the images and text are visible and readable. In the Features From Currents two silkscreens of black images allow the viewer to read the text easily. In contrast, in the Surface Series: Currents, seen here, the images are transformed by the silkscreen process and the number of overlays. Three screens were utilized--one in white ink and two in black inkand a moiré pattern was produced which at times obscures the original text. Glimpses of the text suggest that times may not have changed significantly since 1970, although here and there temporal figuresNixon, Lindsay, Gleasonremind us of times gone by, while other headlines suggest a certain timelessness throughout the modern and post-modern era.
In 1970 and 1971, Rauschenberg wrote that he was exhausted by the distressing world problems that he had been reflecting in his artwork. He wrote, after a while and the resistance, a desire built up in me to work in material of waste and softness. Something yielding with its only message a collection of lines imprinted like a friendly joke. A silent discussion of their history exposed by their new shapes. Labored commonly with happiness. Boxes. The playful Cardbirds were the result.
While they may look like deconstructed cardboard boxes, the Cardbirds were collage prints created from various elements which were hand-screened, hand-made and hand-assembled by the artist and the staff of Gemini G.E.L. between December 1970 and October 1971.