Robert Rauschenberg | Editioned Prints
Robert Rauschenberg is a living legend most renowned for his status as a great American Pop artists of the 1960s. In 1964 he became the first American to win the prestigious Venice Biennale Grand Prize. Significantly, given his use of print media imagery, he was also the first living American artist to be featured by Time magazine on its cover.
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THE RUMINATIONS SERIES
Rauschenberg's introduction to the print studio ULAE began in 1962 under the guidance of its founder Tatyana Grosman, and has developed since then into a close, personal, and fruitful relationship. Over the years, the artist has worked with ULAE's Master Printers and staff to develop new printmaking techniques and to create over 100 printed editions. In 1997, Rauschenberg completed this group of intaglio etchings, which began with an inventive new photogravure technique that would allow the artist to simulate the vegetable dye transfers with which he had recently experimented in his unique work. By applying existing photo-developing processes to intaglio printmaking a technique was developed whereby photo developer could be brushed directly onto plates containing previously exposed photographic negatives. Certain images would appear on the plates to a greater or lesser degree according to the amount of developer brushed on and the time it was allowed to react, and a washy, painted effect could be achieved. In this way, the unpredictability and spontaneity of painting could be combined with Rauschenberg's use of photographic images. As Rauschenberg has said of this technique, he was "more or less painting with light," creating entire pictures with one motion of a brush over a latent image. The chosen images were transferred by photoengraving to more traditional aquatinted copper plates where they could be further altered by the artist's hand through scraping, burnishing, and polishing before printing the editions. Illustrated above are "Leasee" and "Epic."
The unique methods employed in Ground Rules are immediately evident. Using between three and six plates per print, Rauschenberg has cropped and blended these images in a manner previously unseen in his printed work. Subtle tonal and textural variations can be achieved, forms fading in and out of focus, sometimes imperceptibly merging into neighboring images. Colors, too, blend subtly into one another, allowing for a complex range of translucency and opacity as the white of the paper interacts with the vividly colored inks. Rauschenbergs images are set up on a loose grid, and the organization of forms becomes literal in some prints in the shape of a ladder, the links of a fence or the grid of a bicycle rack. Common scenes from Rauschenbergs international travels are juxtaposed with still-lives, animals, industrial elements and more abstract textures and patterns to create a complex and enigmatic message.
Several prints from the Ground Rules series remain available and range in size from 38 x 26 inches to 57 x 50 inches. Each print, all in editions of 44, was printed in between three and six colors.
The Street Sounds series exemplified Rauschenberg's long held belief that, "if you can think of it, you can do it." As photography became the primary focus of the artist's mixed media and editioned work, ULAE worked to create new techniques which could achieve the visual effects Rauschenberg desired. In this series, the staff at ULAE worked with the artist to develop color photogravures, which had never been attempted before. After collaging together color transparencies of his images Rauschenberg sent the maquettes to ULAE, where the printers transformed them into photogravure color separations, a process which took almost a year. This process would eventually inspire further technical advances in photogravure in his Ground Rules series.