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The Collection of Norman & Lyn Lear

Rodeo Palace (Spread)

Rodeo Palace (Spread)
solvent transfer, fabric, cardboard, acrylic, paper and graphite on cardboard mounted on plywood with objects
144 x 192 x 40 3/8 in. (365.8 x 487.7 x 102.6 cm.)
depth dimensions variable
Executed in 1975-1976.
Sidney and Shirley Singer, New York, acquired directly from the artist, 1976
Ace Gallery, Los Angeles
C. Frederick Stimpson, Vancouver
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Private collection, Los Angeles
Douglas Chrismas Fine Art, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1988
G. Glueck, "Notes: Auctions, Agents and the Art of Texas," New York Times, 8 February 1976, p. D35.
D. Douglas, "Artist of Everything," Newsweek, vol. 88, no. 17, 25 October 1976, pp. 94-95 (illustrated).
B. Forgey, "An Artist For All Decades," Art News, vol. 76, no. 1, January 1977, p. 36 (illustrated).
A. Wallach, "Pow - A New Way of Looking," Newsday, 25 March 1977, p. 11A.
C. F. Stuckey, "Reading Rauschenberg," Art in America, vol. 65, no. 2, March-April 1977, p. 84 (illustrated and illustrated on the front cover).
"Rauschenberg: The World is a Painting," Horizon, vol. 19, no. 3, May 1977, p. 16 (illustrated).
T. B. Hess, "Art: Replenishing Rauschenberg," New York Magazine, 16 May 1977, p. 79.
A. Frankenstein, "Rauschenberg - A Pussycat and a Lion," San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, 10 July 1977, pp. 49 and 51 (illustrated).
H. J. Seldis, "Rauschenberg Retrospective: Robert's Rules of Disorder," Los Angeles Times, 24 July 1977, p. 76.
Texas Images & Visions, exh. cat., Austin, University of Texas, Archer. M. Huntington Art Gallery, 1983, p. 41 (illustrated).
Robert Rauschenberg, exh. cat., Barcelona, Fundación Juan March, 1985, n.p.
M. L. Kotz, Rauschenberg: Art and Life, New York, 1990, pp. 208-211 and 233 (illustrated).
M. Frank, "Architectural Digest Visits: Norman Lear," Architectural Digest, July 1992, p. 175.
Rauschenberg Sculpture, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1995, p. 44, pl. 39 (illustrated).
Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997, pp. 392-393, no. 314 (illustrated).
S. Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg, New York, 1999, pp. 88 and 115, pl. 73 (illustrated).
G. Serafini, "Citizen Rauschenberg," Art Dossier, no. 198, March 2004, p. 41.
S. Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg: Works, Writings and Interviews, Barcelona, 2006, pp. 96 and 117 (illustrated).
E. Krčma, Robert Rauschenberg, London, 2016, pp. 26 and 70-71, fig. 55 (illustrated).
W. Hopps, D. Treisman and A. Doran, The Dream Colony: A Life in Art, New York, 2017, p. 250.
K. Zavistovski, "Robert Rauschenberg: In and About L.A.," LACMA: Unframed, 21 August 2018, digital.
Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads, exh. cat., London, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, 2018, pp. 14, 16, 19, 24, 26, 98-99 and 135, pl. 18 (illustrated).
S. Sinclair, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: An Oral History, New York, 2019, pp. 82, 98 and 103.
Fort Worth Art Museum and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, The Great American Rodeo, January-August 1976, pp. 22-25 and 72 (illustrated).
Washington, D.C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institute; New York, Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Art Institute of Chicago, Robert Rauschenberg, October 1976-January 1978, pp. 148-149, pl. 140 (illustrated).
Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Frankfurt, Städel; Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and London, Tate Gallery, Rauschenberg: Werke 1950-1980, March 1980-June 1981, pp. 47, 54-55 and 376-377, no. 61 (illustrated).
Los Angeles, Flow Ace Gallery, Robert Rauschenberg: A Selection of Work from the Last Decade, March-April 1963.
Los Angeles, Ace Contemporary Exhibitions, Rauschenberg: A Selection of Paintings and Sculpture, June-July 1989.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Rauschenberg: In and About L.A., August 2018-February 2019.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“It’s as though he’s gone back to the special waters and flowerings of his roots on the Gulf Coast, but in a new and triumphant way.” – Walter Hopps

An artist whose pioneering body of work forged the link between Abstract Expressionism and the new Pop Art movement of the 1960s, Robert Rauschenberg brought the outside world into the formerly hallowed space of the gallery, syncing up the experience of art with the experience of life to create some of the most daring works of the twentieth century. In the mid-1970s, having moved to Captiva, Florida, and traveling widely to France, Israel, and India, Rauschenberg created the “Spreads” (1975-1982), a series of large-scale sculptural works, some spanning fifteen and sixteen feet wide. Marking his triumphant return to the scale and complexity of his earlier Combines, the Spreads incorporated real-world objects with a symphonic array of imagery, prompting new relationships between his solvent-transfer technique, executed on colorful fabric panels, and their real-life counterparts.

In 1976, Rauschenberg was invited by the Fort Worth Art Museum to participate in an exhibition devoted to the American rodeo, where he debuted Rodeo Palace (Spread), which the artist considered to be the very first Spread that kickstarted the series. Revisiting ideas from his earlier Combines, he incorporates found fabric, cardboard, plywood and doors which open into the gallery, creating a dynamic and three-dimensional hybrid between painting and sculpture. Other examples of the Spreads can be found in museum collections across the United States, the UK and Europe, including Doric Circus (Spread) (1979; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Revenue (Spread) (1980; Tate London). For the curator Thomas B. Hess, these works are “like arias in a language you don’t know, but which you can understand perfectly because of the precision of the singer’s gestures…and above all, because of the music itself” (T. Hess, “Art Replenishing Rauschenberg,” in New York Magazine, May 16, 1977, pp. 79-80).

Rodeo Palace (Spread) is a work rife with referential meaning. The word “Spread” refers to the concept of a large piece of land in Rauschenberg’s native Texan parlance. It also refers, quite literally, to the size of the work itself. “‘Spread’ means as far as I can make it stretch,” Rauschenberg once said. The phrase “nice spread” can also refer to a lavish buffet, and, as Rauschenberg jokingly said, “the stuff you put on toast” (R. Rauschenberg, quoted in T. B. Hess, “Art: Replenishing Rauschenberg,” New York Magazine, May 16, 1977, p. 79). According to the curator Walter Hopps, Rodeo Palace (Spread) is also “based on [Rauschenberg’s] love of the movie The Misfits. The strip of white with red polka dots is a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. The striped patch behind the other door is the shirt of the soulful Montgomery Clift" (W. Hopps, The Dream Colony: A Life in Art, New York, 2017, p. 251). Rodeo Palace (Spread) is the ambitious, full-bodied synthesis of Rauschenberg’s career thus far, with special biographical reference to his childhood in Port Arthur, Texas, and incorporating the fabrics, textiles and architecture of that small Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico. Hopps championed the work, saying: “It’s as though he’s gone back to the special waters and flowerings of his roots on the Gulf Coast, but in a new and triumphant way” (W. Hopps, quoted in M. L. Kotz, Rauschenberg: Art and Life, New York, 1980, p. 210).

Rodeo Palace (Spread) is a Combine painting writ large, spread out and expanded upon across four panels, where a series of three doors open to reveal colorful fabric panels and over fifty different images made by Rauschenberg’s solvent-transfer technique. In the center panel, Rauschenberg has taken a screen door commonly found in old Texas farmhouses and replaced the screens with white silk, which softens and blurs the imagery found on the other side of the door. Rauschenberg also incorporates elements from the earlier Combines of the 1950s. The pillow and blue-striped ticking refer back to the linens used in Bed (1955; Museum of Modern Art) and Short Circuit (1955; Art Institute of Chicago), the key appears in Buffalo II (1964), and the humble metal bucket from Gift for Apollo (1959; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) is now a poetic receptacle, standing empty to be filled with the viewer’s own meaning and interpretation.

Throughout his expansive and long-running career, beginning with the Combine paintings of the 1950s and proceeding to the silkscreen paintings of the 1960s, Rauschenberg has been an artist whose work straddles two worlds, in which the historicity of artmaking itself is pictured alongside imagery from the contemporary news media. His solvent transfer technique allowed him to capture and re-imagine some of the most important imagery of the postwar era, including photographs of JFK, the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and the war in Vietnam. Rauschenberg’s best work is often populated with cleverly veiled references to larger issues, whether personal or art historical, that reveal themself after a deeper engagement with the work. One recurrent motif in the Combines is the idea of a window, or door, which mimics the Renaissance notion of painting as a window on the world. In Rauschenberg’s Combines, the painterly tradition kept alive since the Renaissance is referenced but discarded with a kind of playful abandon, as he combines lush, painterly drips with real windows, doors and mirrors. In Rodeo Palace (Spread), Rauschenberg took this playful ambitiousness to new lengths, where the door and window motif not only references the Renaissance ideal, thereby invoking the strategy behind the earlier Combines, but also acts as a metaphorical window into the artist’s own past, where visions of a past life among the cattle rustlers, oil men and rodeo stars of Texas form the chorus line of players in the formation of Rauschenberg’s art and life.

Created in the mid-1970s, the “Spreads” found Rauschenberg in a retrospective mood, both literally – in preparation for his large-scale retrospective in 1976 that originated at the Smithsonian and then traveled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and several other institutions – and figuratively, as he now freely revisited earlier motifs and processes in his work. The Spreads took these earlier ideas to radical new heights, in which experimentation and an abiding interest in cross-cultural exchange created exciting new connections. The Spreads would preoccupy Rauschenberg until 1982, with Rodeo Palace (Spread) holding an important place within the series, as it was one of the very first in the series and relates to his own biography.

Rodeo Palace (Spread) also holds special significance in the Collection of Norman Lear and Lyn Davis Lear, as the artist and the Lears proved to be good friends. On Sunday evenings, Norman would hold movie screenings in his home, and Rauschenberg would occasionally join. Rauschenberg met Lear while he was in Los Angeles working on lithographs at the print workshop Gemini G.E.L. In 1991, Rauschenberg created a lithographic print for Lear, as part of his charitable organization, which was titled People of the American Way (1991). In 2018, the Lears lent Rodeo Palace (Spread) to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art for the solo exhibition, Rauschenberg: In and About L.A., cementing the artist’s legacy and association with the city.

Rodeo Palace (Spread) has been featured in many of the most important exhibitions of Rauschenberg’s work, including the 1976 retrospective at the Smithsonian, which was meant as a celebration of America’s bicentennial. The museum wanted an exhibition that would highlight “the nation’s greatest living artist,” for which Rauschenberg, who just turned fifty, was a natural fit. Rodeo Palace (Spread) also featured in Rauschenberg’s European retrospective in 1980 that originated at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. Countless art historians and critics have praised the work, with the author of Rauschenberg: Art and Life, Mary Lynn Kotz, calling it “a breakthrough” and Benjamin Forgey, the Washington Post art critic, describing it as “a huge compendium piece, like a travelogue of Rauschenberg’s own amazing journey” (B. Forgey, “An Artist for All Decades,” Art News, January 1977, p. 36).

Perhaps this epic declaration is best summarized by Mary Lynn Kotz, the author of Rauschenberg: Art and Life, who declared: “For Rauschenberg, at the age of fifty, Rodeo Palace was a breakthrough, celebrating his roots in images as straightforward and homely as those in the old Combines. The references to the West include horses, cactus, and an oil derrick. At the top of the painting’s six panels, on a surface painted in opalescent peach, is a picture of an ordinary bucket, like the kind used to water horses. In the end, Rauschenberg did not just confine Rodeo Palace to rodeos or the old West. Through his joyous, random-order imagery, Rauschenberg once again became the reporter of past and present (M. L. Kotz, op. cit., p. 209).

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