Waddington Galleries will be exhibiting eight new works by American artist, Robert Rauschenberg. Taken from his recent series Scenarios, each work consists of two panels with a total measurement of eight by ten feet. The uniform dimensions allow Rauschenberg to focus on composition; blocks of photographic imagery are juxtaposed inside a negative white space. Their size and subjects show an undiminished ambition to create works of vitality that connect with the present day.
In dealing with images of the regional Rauschenberg addresses the universal. Although at first glance the main iconography seems American, shrouded in veiled coastal light, in ‘Kennel Club’, 2005, we can see placards from Westminster Square, a European number plate, the commodities of oil and water and a cut-out of two Greenland geese contentedly resting from their borderless global migration.
In ‘Vermillion Plaza’, 2006, he captures the so-called magic hour, where the sun hasn’t quite set. The yellow, orange and reds from a single photograph of the setting sun are echoed with colours from industrial objects such as parking cones and a pneumatic drill. The transfer pigments give a warm luminosity to his open inquisitiveness, placing adjacent images to form different scenarios.
Robert Rauschenberg is eighty-one, the same age Henri Matisse was in 1952 when he made ‘L’escargot’, his arrangement of cut-out forms on canvas. Rauschenberg shows a similar clarity, refinement and immediate directness of application in Scenarios. Where Matisse used scissors to create shapes, Rauschenberg uses the digital ‘cut and paste’ of a computer to produce his scale, colour and contour. Where Matisse’s assistants placed the shapes under his instruction, Rauschenberg’s position the printed acetates over the substrate before transferring the image directly by means of a squeegee, enlivening the surface with a fragmented viscosity as desired. This pictorial disintegration can be seen in the seductive Technicolor of sunlit poppy petals, quietly subverted by the work’s title in ‘Rehab’ 2005.
From his first simple exposure of a figure on blueprint paper in the late forties (‘Female Figure’, 1949), through his photographic collage and ensembles of the fifties (‘Rebus’, 1955), his photographic silkscreens of the sixties (‘Barge’, 1962), to his solvent transferred images of the seventies (‘Hoarfrost’, 1974), photography has been an imperative ingredient in the work of Rauschenberg for over half a century.