Robert Rauschenberg - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I avoid images that are fixed. You get that and it’s just illustration.” – Robert Rauschenberg

    Emblematic of Robert Rauschenberg’s atmospheric blend of text and image, Untitled, 1967, intuitively describes the complexity of reality in all its transitory disorder. The artist’s collages signaled a revolutionary challenge to traditional notions of high art, its legacy reverberating into the present moment. A kind of structure in the disorder of images emerges, reflecting the human experience of conferring structure upon the ambient rush of the sights and sounds that constitute everyday life.

    Rauschenberg’s transfer drawings developed out from the artist’s experiments with appropriation in the early 1950s. By soaking printed reproductions in lighter fluid and rubbing the back of the image with an empty ballpoint pen, Rauschenberg discovered that he could transfer the images to paper. The purpose of this method, the artist explained, was so that “the details should not be taken in at one glance, that you should be able to look from place to place without feeling the bigger image. I had to make a surface which invited a constant change of focus and an examination of detail” (Robert Rauschenberg, quoted in G.R. Swenson, “Rauschenberg Paints a Picture,” ArtNews, April 1963, p. 45). In the 1960s, Rauschenberg began to focus on craft and found materials rather than printed mass-media images, enriching his works with multiple mediums. In Untitled, swathes of vibrant paint intermingle with paper collage atop the transfer drawing, adding a depth and dimension to the ghostly images beneath the page.

    The seemingly arbitrary collision of print and image – like glimpses of a familiar scene through a fogged window – is characteristic of Rauschenberg’s practice, yet Untitled holds a clue as to its meaning in the form of a disembodied man’s head on the left side of the work which strongly resembles the poet Frank O’Hara, a close friend who had died the year prior. In 1967 Rauschenberg created a series of untitled transfer drawings for In Memory of My Feelings, a collection of poems by O’Hara, and it is possible that Untitled comprises a fraction of this homage to Rauschenberg’s lost friend. Yet the elusiveness of this fleeting combination - of signs – a car, a seashell, a fragment of text and a shadowed face – keeps Untitled unknowable. As Rauschenberg acknowledged, “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I would substitute anything for preconceptions or deliberateness. If that moment can’t be as fresh, strange and unpredictable as what’s going on around you, then it’s false” (Robert Rauschenberg, quoted in Rauschenberg: An Interview with Robert Rauschenberg by Barbara Rose, New York, 1987, p. 58).

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection



signed with the artist's initials "R.R." lower right
solvent transfer, gouache, graphite, tape and collage on paper
11 1/2 x 14 1/2 in. (29.2 x 36.8 cm.)
Executed in 1967.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue