Contemporary Art Online | New York

Contemporary Art Online | New York

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 65. Untitled (Galvanic Suite).

Robert Rauschenberg

Untitled (Galvanic Suite)

Lot Closed

July 21, 05:06 PM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 USD

Lot Details


Robert Rauschenberg

1925 - 2008

Untitled (Galvanic Suite)

signed and dated 89; numbered 89.36 on the reverse

silkscreen ink, acrylic and enamel on galvanized steel

Steel: 48 by 36 in. (121.9 by 91.4 cm.)

Framed: 48¾ by 36¾ in. (123.8 by 93.3 cm.)

Private Collection (gift of the artist)

Private Collection, San Francisco

Private Collection, Arizona

Pace Wildenstein, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002

“[Art should be] an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living.”[1] – John Cage

In the late 1980s, Robert Rauschenberg finally returned to the silkscreen, a medium that he had not used since his seminal Silkscreen Paintings of the 1960s. Executed in 1989, Untitled belongs to Rauschenberg’s Galvanic Suite (1988-1991) whose name comes from Rauschenberg’s decision to work on galvanized steel. Unlike the Silkscreen Paintings of the ‘60s, in this series, Rauschenberg uses his own photography instead of appropriated images for the silkscreens. However, Rauschenberg’s signature juxtaposition of diverse, mechanically reproduced imagery and gestural brushwork places Untitled squarely within his singular oeuvre. Rauschenberg explains, “My fascination with images … is based on the complex interlocking of disparate visual facts … that have no respect for grammar.”[2] In this way, Rauschenberg forces the viewer to hazard a reading of the unreadable – of extreme and often mystifying combinations of imagery.

Rauschenberg, who always preserves an unreconcilable ambiguity in his works, believes in the fundamental importance of the viewer’s act of looking. In Untitled, interpretations might range from the threat of modernity to the role of art, but it remains the viewer’s responsibility to decide the meaning of this work. The work of art, for Rauschenberg, is always in flux, evolving with its viewer, whose interpretations continuously renew it. Rauschenberg argues that “Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)”[3] Rauschenberg, who famously worked with his TV blaring, reflects life as it exists back at the viewer in a way that mirrors the non-stop bombardment of media images. In Untitled, we see the world in its fragmentation and with its absurd contradictions. A young donkey, frozen in motion beneath a looming satellite tower, charges ahead at a wall of green and silver stripes that seems to have wandered out of one of Daniel Buren’s minimalist frescoes. The collision of these disparate elements defamiliarizes the world. As Rauschenberg’s long-time friend John Cage says, this jarring synthesis of imagery rouses us from our slumber. In this moment frozen in time, it is up to the viewer to draw a conclusion.

[1] John Cage, quoted in Mary Lunn Kotz, “Rauschenberg/Art and Life” (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1990), 89.

[2] Robert Rauschenberg, “Note on Painting,” October 31 – November 2, 1963; quoted in Francis Naumann, “Robert Rauschenberg: Urban Bourbons and Night Shades,” in Robert Rauschenberg: NIGHT Shades & URBAN Bourbons, exh. cat., Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1995, 14.

[3] Robert Rauschenberg, quoted in Kotz, “Rauschenberg/Art and Life,” 89.