acrylic on canvas
Gospel Yodel is an exceptional example of Robert Rauschenberg's Salvage series (1983-1985) where the artist's multifarious imagery became revitalized by a renewed confidence in his gesture. The series was inspired by the Trisha Brown dance collaboration Set and Reset presented in New York in 1983. Rauschenberg, a storied participant in stage set designs due to his sophisticated ability to fuse color and light within new juxtapositions —prompted him to his boldest and freshest conceptions in the theater. In Set and Reset Rauschenberg mimicked the multiple experiences of the performance creating a backdrop of layered imagery within a spatial configuration that deliberately encouraged divergent readings. The Salvage series produced immediately thereafter therefore represents a unique and direct corollary between Rauschenberg's fascination with theatre and his radical artistic genius.
In Gospel Yodel vigorous brushstrokes are boldly cast over what appears to be distinctly American silk screened imagery. The imagery, rendered on a prodigious scale, includes images of popular American alcohol brands, sexy women, variegated images of trains and stations and a compelling image of a magnificent buffalo, all suggesting the influence of the great American west. The very title, "Gospel" with its religious associations and "Yodel", often associated with blue grass or country music, suggest Rauschenberg's very own, spiritual America and all its labyrinthine associations. 1984, the date this work was executed, Ronald Reagan, whose supporters credit him with winning the Cold War, as well as restoring America's self-confidence and rebuilding its economic and military strength, had just been re-elected by a landslide victory, and the XXIII Olympiad taking place in Los Angeles, echoed the euphoria of American nationalism of the time.
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