Features and Surface from Currents Series

Robert Rauschenberg felt that Americans were confronted with words, numbers, and images everywhere the turned. No one could possibly absorb it all, and therefore the media's messages were becoming meaningless. He needed a new way to approach the public and make them see and not just look at their surroundings.

Rauschenberg's solution was his surface series. this particular series is one of 18, which he created in 1970. He used clippings from various dally newspapers to form an unusual collage, which was then transformed into a photo silkscreen print. The articles and images reflect contemporary American issues and themes. He includes everything from a car headlight and advertisement for an adult bookshop, to an article on dissent in the Army. None of the Elements are particularly unusual, and that is the point. It is the mundane pieced together to form an a suggestive and thought - provoking work of art. What originally served as a mirror of contemporary society, now allows us a scrap book view of the early 1970's.

The invention of the collage ca be traced back to Picasso and Cubism. Picasso frequently included fragments of newspapers, some of which were the actual paper and some of which were drawn or painted imitations. Rauschenberg approached the medium in a different way and used technological advances to his advantages. He used photo silkscreen and was able to mass produce the series. This technique also allowed him more manipulation with the newspaper: he superimposed, reversed and placed the articles at various angles to make them more difficult to understand. One must examine the various pieces separately, but the image should be taken as a whole- whole which assaults the visual senses. Rauschenberg added to the confusion by applying a large moire pattern in the silkscreen, thus creating further areas of dark and light, tension and space.

Unlike Picasso's Cubist works most of this print's fragments are easily identifiable and many of the articles are legible. We are not so far removed from the newspaper that we ever see it as anything but a newspaper. These Prints are planes full of words, images, and messages that most likely would have gone unnoticed and forgotten had Rauschenberg not chosen to clip them and immortalize them in his work.

The series includes "Features from Currents" - #55 through #80 and "Surface Series from Currents," #37 through #54.

Features from Currents was completed in 1970, in an edition of 50.

Surface Series from Currents was completed in 1970, in an edition of 100.

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