48
48
Robert Rauschenberg
SPACE INVADERS [ANAGRAM (A PUN)]
Estimate
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,460,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
48
Robert Rauschenberg
SPACE INVADERS [ANAGRAM (A PUN)]
Estimate
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,460,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Robert Rauschenberg
1925 - 2008
SPACE INVADERS [ANAGRAM (A PUN)]
signed and dated 97; titled and numbered 97.072 on the reverse
inkjet dye transfer on polylaminate
61 1/4 by 123 3/4 in. 155.6 by 314.3 cm.
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Provenance

Private Collection
Greenberg Van Doren, New York
Kaare Bernsten, Oslo
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2004


Exhibited

Copenhagen, Galleri Faurschou, Galleri Faurschou: 1986-2001, September - October 2001, p. 15, illustrated in color, and illustrated in color on the front and back cover (detail)
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Rauschenberg, February - June 2004, pp. 192-193, no. 85, illustrated in color
Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Robert Rauschenberg Late Series, May - August 2017, p. 67, illustrated in color, and pp. 68-69 and 71, illustrated in color (detail)

Catalogue Note

Robert Rauschenberg’s monumental Space Invaders [Anagram (A Pun)] comes from the artist’s series of Anagrams, an impressive group of works that was honored with an exhibition at PaceWildenstein in 1996. In the exhibition catalogue, Bernice Rose writes of this significant body of work: “[Rauschenberg’s] newest group of works is one of his more extraordinary visual reenactments of that exploration into the world of the sensate: the Anagrams are the poetic ciphers of his self’s self-discovery as it travels among the objects of the material world and inserts itself into the chaotic, arbitrary world of nature.” (Exh. Cat., New York, PaceWildenstein (and travelling), Robert Rauschenberg: Anagrams, 1996, p. 7) The Anagrams are distinguished by their cryptic scenes of imagery familiar and arcane, their collision of an art historical tradition and contemporary commentary, and a juxtaposition of high and low art. Comparable examples from this series reside in esteemed museums worldwide, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The present work is particularly exceptional in its prominent use of the astronaut imagery and descriptive title Space Invaders [Anagram (A Pun)]. Throughout Rauschenberg’s illustrious career, space exploration has featured as a recurring theme – so much as to merit entire chapters about this national obsession within the artist’s oeuvre. Indeed, space-related imagery features in Rauschenberg’s best-known paintings, including Retroactive I (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford), Retroactive II (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Axle (Museum Ludwig, Cologne), and Buffalo II (the record for the artist at auction). Within this fantastical landscape, the titular astronaut lands upon a dreamlike desert scene set within a corrugated rectangle, invading the composition and, by extension, Rauschenberg’s world and consciousness.

Executed in 1997, decades after his initial forays into collaged and silkscreened canvases, Space Invaders [Anagram (A Pun)] possesses the same visual, intellectual, and stylistically inventive power Rauschenberg exhibited in the 1950s and 60s. Across his vast canvas, Rauschenberg screens ephemera from his everyday experience in a kaleidoscopic sprawl of contemporary imagery and cultural touchstones. A street art rendition of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam hovers in the uppermost left corner, beneath which a series of framed photographs of Audrey Hepburn cluster together on a tabletop; pictures of building sites, snapshots of abandoned lots, enigmatic images of graffitied cacti, and a spraypainted astronaut come together in this miscellany of painting and photography. Although visually disjointed at first glance, a visual rhythm emerges from this collection of compositional components: the cubes of framed photographs, triangles from barred streets, and ovals that make up the repeated cactus motif. Rose writes: “The Anagram paintings are the newest element in Rauschenberg’s expanding universe…Once again, he uses the particular qualities of medium and paper support as they interact to absorb images of a world fragmented into a seamless whole. Like the Inferno drawings, they are made by a transfer process, and light and shadow inhere to both the origin of the image and the technique that produces it. Also as in the Inferno, each element in the pictorial structure is assigned multiple tasks, messages, identities. As Rauschenberg washes image over image, ‘abstract’ and representational, foreground and background constantly shift roles, creating spatial ambiguities that escape the expanded Cubist grid structure.” (Ibid., pp. 8-9)

Positioned squarely between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art in the middle of the twentieth century, Rauschenberg is an artist whose varied output of sculptures, paintings, drawings, and performances shattered traditional boundaries. His unrivaled experimentation and iconoclastic approach to integrating life and objects into his artistic practice gained him a reputation as the enfant terrible of the New York School, an identity he embraced as he forged an avant-garde aesthetic that was entirely and uniquely American. Following his attendance at Black Mountain College in 1948 – where he met fellow artists Cy Twombly, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham – Rauschenberg moved to lower Manhattan, where the gritty urban landscape, both decaying and invigorating, inspired his output in the 1950s and 60s. Errant paint splatters, weathered advertisements, fragments of billboards, and commercial signs sprawled across building facades in a visual assault of post-war consumerism and constant flux provided constant visual stimulation which in turn prompted the development of his unique aesthetic. In tandem with the inspiration drawn from his surroundings, Rauschenberg looked to  the onslaught of quotidian images and stories from magazines and newspapers such as LIFE, Newsweek, Esquire, and National Geographic, illustrating a populism exquisitely displayed in Space Invaders [Anagram (A Pun)].

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York