Lot 40
  • 40

Robert Rauschenberg

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • Primo Calle/ ROCI Venezuela
  • acrylic and collage on canvas
  • 81 1/8 x 212 1/2 in. 206.1 x 539.8 cm.
  • Executed in 1985.


Saff Tech Arts, Oxford, Maryland
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1991


Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas, ROCI Venezuela, September - December 1985
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, ROCI, May - September 1991, p. 116-117, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

"One-to-one contact through art contains potent peaceful powers and is the most non-elitist way to share exotic and common information."—Robert Rauschenberg,
The ROCI project, to which Primo Calle belongs, was a humanitarian endeavor to promote world peace through contemporary art and the culminating expression of Rauschenberg's lifelong activism. As an exemplary painting conceived by the artist for ROCI Venezuela - other participating countries included Mexico, Chile, China, Tibet, Japan, Cuba, the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Malaysia - Primo Calle intends to impact the way cultures perceive each other and establish an artistic dialogue between countries in disparate stages of development.

Formally, the ROCI paintings (named for his pet tortoise) also mark Rauschenberg's return to silk-screening, a technique he had not employed since 1964. Most of these large works were executed using a variety of materials, often improvised and dependent on local availability. In the present painting, pieces of furniture, millwork, found objects, and brightly colored fabrics convey Venezuela's rich cultural tradition. In addition, each painting has an overall chromatic context suggestive of that country's local color. In Primo Calle, the red-ochre produces an earthy mood reminiscent of Venezuela's tropical sensuality and warmth. 

The use of photography is an important and dominant component in the ROCI series. As a medium, it is uniquely suited for illustrating documentary glimpses of events, people, and sites, which are then randomly contrasted in an overlay of appropriated and de-contextualized references. One such image in Primo Calle is the late Pope John Paul II, who visited Venezuela in January 1985 - a clear reference to the country's Catholic tradition. Other works executed in the Venezuela ROCI series include imagery of the Amazon and the many indigenous tribes that inhabit the region.