Juxtaposition of Rauschenberg

Anthony Viola
Oct 19, 2014 11:10PM

Robert Rauschenberg seemed to often incorporate a heavy juxtaposition of images in his compositions.  Included are a few of his works entitled LaborSpace, and New York Philharmonic 150th Anniversary.  The elements that Rauschenberg chose to collocate weren't just placed. They had relevance toward each other even in the smallest facets.  This connected subject matter (be specific) that seemed irrelevant to each other at first glance.  

With Labor, a print from his Tribute 21 series, We see a hammer on the topside of the composition and a window on a wooden wall accompanying it.  The tone of the colors seem to match the two images side-by-side.   The connection seems obvious, but perhaps one could speculate that the hammer and its placement reflect that the largest and most extreme of creations in the beginning started with a single tool, a single thought even.

Mr. Rauschenberg took quite a liking to space. This print, also from his Tribute 21 series Space, places astronauts among the stars, planets and their rings.  One of the astronauts could be seen suspended overlapping a very unrealistic rendering of the universe.  The rings of a far off planet can be seen in the background, collapsing the images sense of space.  This print makes the unimaginable visual. Through this piece viewers achieve visual dreams they thought they would never see.

New York Philharmonic 150th Anniversary seems to be a response to the philharmonic show that he attended in New York. Suggested by the writings on the right side of the work. The print on top of the poster has the two subjects, the piano and the monochrome flower, above and below each other.  I believe the flower soiled in its pot reflects the silent sharpness that embodies a lone piano.  I also believe that the flower has much in common with the piano: both give off pleasant "aromas" and last only as long as you senses partake.

There is a simplicity to many of these designs that take the mundane and transform them into visceral expressions of spontaneity.  These pieces have a spontaneous quality about them including Schwitter's Merzbild 1A. The mental doctor with its use of the mechanical visual assuage to create order through the chaotic choice of materials juxtaposed in just the right, meticulous way.  

Motherwell's Drunk with Turpentine opted for straight-forward approach. When placing his subjects so close to each other they became one form, while maintaining their two separate identities. 

Some include seemingly barely thought-out shapes, such as de Kooning's lithograph With Love, that live through the forms around them.  The print itself is non-representational and all about forms of ink relating to each other.  The juxtaposition between the top and the bottom strokes create an exciting negative enclosure inside.  Mr. de Kooning's Devil at the Keyboard uses line and color in a more controlled way in order to flatten the composition and create a more spontaneous flow of color on a single plane.  His placement of the lines seems so natural yet they fight each other with their complementary colors.  The simplicity shows qualities of a quiet restraint.

Anthony Viola