Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing

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540 West 25th Street, NY 10001, New York, USA
Open: Tue-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-6pm


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Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing

New York

Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing
to Sat 23 Oct 2021
Tue-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-6pm

Pace presents Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing, an exhibition of more than 30 works by the renowned American artist. The presentation focuses on Rauschenberg’s response to the rise of global media culture from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s.

Spotlighting Rauschenberg’s return to painting after a decade-long hiatus from the medium, this exhibition examines the artist’s development of a radical new approach to his canvases that combined elements of photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing traces the artist’s creation of a visual language that addresses fundamental transformations in media culture in the late 20th-century, a period marked by the apotheosis of television and the emergence of the internet.

Focusing on the final decades of Rauschenberg’s longtime explorations of the reach and power of technology, the exhibition showcases the artist’s reinvention and reimagining of his early artistic investigations of the 1960s. It also highlights Rauschenberg’s turn toward using his own visual archive of photographs and prints as material for his later works, a shift from his earlier use of appropriated imagery. A selection of major and rarely seen works from private and public collections will be on view in the show, including works from the series Salvage (1983-85), Shiners (1986-93), Copperheads (1985/89), Gluts (1986-1995), Urban Bourbons (1988-86), Anagrams (1995-97), Arcadian Retreats (1996), Anagrams (A Pun) (1997-2002), Apogamy Pods (1999-2000), Short Stories (2000-2002), Scenarios (2002-2006), and Runts (2006-2008).

Spanning three decades of Rauschenberg’s expansive and deeply influential practice, Channel Surfing offers a focused survey of the later years of the artist’s career. Anchoring the presentation is the large-scale painting Colonnade (1984), a key work from the artist’s Salvage series. In that series, Rauschenberg explored the possibilities of repurposing imagery from his own past, setting into motion much of the work that would follow. Monumental and bold, Colonnade exemplifies his interest in forging visual circuits between history and the present.

A presentation of photographs by Rauschenberg on view in the gallery’s library builds on these connections between the artist’s paintings and photography late in his career. Included in this showing are three works from the artist’s Photem Series I, photo collages mounted on aluminum and produced in the early 1990s, and a group of digital prints created in the same period.

Rauschenberg’s engagement with globalization is a recurring theme throughout the exhibition. In the mid-1980s, the artist presented the international traveling exhibition Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Initiative (ROCI), through which he advocated for art’s power to enact meaningful social change and cultivate exchange across borders. In the following years, he began using his practice to address connections between the forces of globalization and the threat of environmental destruction. On view in this exhibition are five major sculptures from his Gluts series, which the artist created after a trip to Texas amid an economic crisis precipitated by an excess of supply in the oil market. Included in this group of sculptures, which incorporate found objects and signage, is the celebrated work Primary Mobiloid Glut (1988), on loan to Pace from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Rauschenberg’s late paintings are distinguished in part by the use of nontraditional supports, including copper, aluminum, galvanized steel, and, eventually, polylaminate. The exhibition draws connections between his use of these materials and the metal of the Gluts sculptures, linking the formal characteristics of the artist’s earlier works with ongoing issues related to globalization and climate. The reflective surfaces of these late paintings also serve a participatory function, bringing viewers into the works as active contributors and emphasizing art’s potential impact on individuals and global systems alike.

Another highlight in the exhibition is a selection of the artist’s Apogamy Pods (1999-2000), which will be presented on the gallery’s seventh floor. These enigmatic works, for which Rauschenberg transferred inkjet pigment images onto polylaminate supports, contain a remarkable degree of white space. With these works, Rauschenberg challenged viewers to imagine new ways of life and alternative futures.

all images © the gallery and the artist(s)


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