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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


oil, printed paper collage, fabric, stamped metal and ink on found canvas
17 x 21 in. (43.2 x 53.2 cm.)
Executed in 1958.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Edwin E. Hokin, Chicago,1958
Art Institute of Chicago, gift from the above,1965
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2015
Robert Rauschenberg, exh. cat., Berlin, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, 1980, p. 283 (illustrated).
Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997, p. 124, no. 93 (illustrated).
M. L. Kotz, Rauschenberg: Art and Life, New York, 2004, p. 170 (illustrated).
Robert Rauschenberg, exh. cat. Rome, Edizione Mucciaccia, 2008, p. 115 (illustrated).
Selections from the Private Collection of Robert Rauschenberg, exh. cat, New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2012, p. 40 (illustrated).
WITNESS: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum, 2014, p. 91, fig. 83 (illustrated).
New York, Stable Gallery, Some Younger Artists, December 1959-January 1960, p. 55 (illustrated).
Washington D.C., Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Arts; New York, Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Gallery and Art Institute of Chicago, Robert Rauschenberg, October 1976-January 1978, pp. 94 and 214, no. 54 (illustrated).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; Paris, Centre Pompidou; Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Robert Rauschenberg: Combines, December 2005- April 2007, pp. 88 and 295, pl. 73 (illustrated).
Art Institute of Chicago, December 1993-June 1994, June 1997-June 1999, March 2009-May 2011.
Further details
For further information regarding the condition of this work, please contact Michael Baptist

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Lot Essay

Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.) Robert Rauschenberg

A peak example of Robert Rauschenberg’s ability to marry imagery and objects with a nuanced investigation into the very signifiers of painting itself, Lincoln was created during a frenzy of activity that led to the realization of the artist’s Combines. Working in New York alongside other avant-garde luminaries like Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg helped coax ideas about the divide between art and real-world objects. His use of techniques gleaned from Dadaists and the papier collé work of Pablo Picasso helped to situate works like Lincoln within a larger creative trajectory at odds with the prevailing Abstract Expressionist tendencies while still remaining decidedly American. Incorporating found images from newspapers and magazines, and even pictures of United States presidents as in the current example and the homage to JFK, Retroactive I (1963, Museum of Modern Art, New York), the artist layered his works with a very real connection to the daily life of people living in the USA during the era. By doing so, he helped set the stage for American Pop Art and Minimalism that sprouted in the following years.

Composed on a horizontal piece of found canvas, Lincoln finds Rauschenberg arranging oil paint, printed paper, fabric, stamped metal, and ink into a cohesive visual conversation. On the left side, a photo print of the titular American leader sits atop a brushy white ground that clouds its edges as the painting threatens to swallow up the image. On the top left, a discrete line of yellow paint with six linear drips eases onto the print and further envelops it in a painterly discussion. This narrative is paired with a collection of marks, imagery, and found elements on the right which the artist carefully arranges into a dynamic display of disparate media. The bottom right is taken by a piece of brown paper covered in scrawled graphite script next to a swath of black and red ink bleeding into a light white and blue area. To the left of this assortment, the artist places a cut-out print that seems to depict a rocky landscape. Whether it is a postcard or the remnant of a geological photo survey remains to be seen. In the upper right section of the composition, the precise application of a long white impasto converges with red, black, and a brushy patch of dark gray. Rauschenberg affixes a piece of stamped tin with the letters “A B C” as a foil next to these painterly additions that serve to draw the mind away from the flatness of the canvas and into a more object-oriented mode.

In what would later be seen as a harbinger of Post-Modernism, Rauschenberg often investigated the meaning of images and signs within his practice. By toying with the semiotic link between signs and their significations, he would “combin[e] inviting feats of intricate iconographic interpretation only to call into question through their sheer physical and iconographic heterogeneity the very idea of such readings” (G. Bader, “Rauschenberg’s Skin,” Grey Room no. 27, Spring 2007, p. 105). In Lincoln, an image of the president is in visual conversation with deliberate painted marks and bits of cast-off material. One realizes after only a short while that the photograph is of the Lincoln Memorial, not the man himself, and this understanding brings in a nod to sculptural elements throughout Rauschenberg’s practice while also problematizing how we view images in a society inundated with reproductions.

Throughout his early work with collages and into the breakthrough ‘combines’, Rauschenberg exhibited a great affinity for the work of the Dadaists, especially Kurt Schwitters and his Merz collages. Focusing on the reuse of overlooked materials and found objects, both artists probed the disconnect between rejects and beauty. Rauschenberg’s assemblages grew out of his wish to create in the space between art and everyday life. During the late 1940s and into the ‘50s, he visited and studied at the experimental haven of Black Mountain College where he came into contact with former Bauhaus faculty Josef and Anni Albers as well as the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the musician John Cage. The latter introduced him to ideas of chance and chaos which helped to intensify Rauschenberg’s interest in working with found materials and exploring the crossover between artistic production and day-to-day life. "For Cage and Rauschenberg, the purpose of art was not to create enduring masterpieces for an elite, but to further a perpetual process of discovery in which everyone could participate. They wanted to break down all barriers between art and life. Rauschenberg wrote, 'Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)' Art, said Cage, should be an affirmation of life-not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply wake up to the very life we're living'" (M. L. Kotz, Rauschenberg/Art and Life, New York, 1990, p. 89). Both Cage and Rauschenberg looked for a democratization of the art-making process where the common interceded into the rarified space of the white cube.

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