iRauschenberg; The technologically simple
Historically, technology has provided artists with new tools for expression. As Robert Rauschenberg was not dedicated to one particular medium throughout his artistic career, technology served as a fundamental force in the development and evolution of his work. In his lifelong effort to reflect the human experience in art, he pushed the boundaries of what was perceived as “traditional” in his commitment to innovation. And as the industrialized, commercialized, and technological world presented itself around him, he rejected it.
Electricity, automotives, the Internet, digital fabrication, smartphones, augmented reality, virtual reality, generative art, etc. — it all has and will continue to muddle our lives and our complex views of the world. In this survey of works, the constant and irresolute nature of technology is acknowledged and simplified, denouncing the complicated world of machines we live in.
This group of works depicts technological modernity in simple, reduced forms. Artists use monochrome, plain geometric shapes, and unembellished compositions to examine the intersection between human experience and technology. The architectural model Vertical City and Heinz Mack’s New York, New York portray structures that resemble urban skylines, stripped to their most simple shapes. Like Robert Rauschenberg’s Automobile Tire Print, which he created by driving a car over twenty attached sheets of paper, Christopher Wool combines human and machine marks in many of his works. Andy Warhol’s affinity for mechanical reproduction and consumer culture is reflected in the uncomplicated compositions of his silkscreen electric chairs. James Turrell’s projected lights and Dan Flavin’s commercial fluorescent light tubing experiment with technology in one of its simplest forms; artificial light.
Like Rauschenberg, these artists tested and simplified commonplace institutions of technology, whether it be a single light bulb against a plain background, the unembellished profile of a man driving an automobile, or a pair of glass tires resting against one another. As technology continues to complicate life in all its digitized and mechanized glory, these artists’ works, in true Rauschenberg style, manifest that technology is only complicated if we say so.