In the digital age we are bombarded with visual imagery in unprecedented ways. Currently confrontations with the printed and televisual exist in tandem with the virtual image. Robert Rauschenberg’s art has been coined as neo-Dada and for many serves as the bridge between the Abstract Expressionist canvases of artists like Jackson Pollock and the pop products of Andy Warhol.
This exhibition situates Rauschenberg’s assemblage works alongside more contemporary and non-traditional art forms that highlight the relationship between art, politics, and mass media. Many of Rauschenberg’s assemblages use found images that are appropriated in various ways that destabilize their original function and obscure their original context.
In the exhibition, a variety of different works accompanies Rauschenberg’s art to promote reflection on a daily experience inundated with visual imagery. The works in Virtual Context represent a variety of artistic practices that appropriate the use of signs, symbols, and found or familiar imagery, recombining these elements in ways that calls attention to the role of context in the construction of meaning.
While all the artists in the exhibition expose or efface the context in different ways, all are indebted to the critical practices of figures like Robert Rauschenberg who employed collaborative and nontraditional artistic methods. For example, Thomas W. Benton and Hunter S. Thompson, Censored Aspen Wallposter #5 appropriates the authority of Time Magazine to exaggerate and undermine the power we assign to periodicals. Robert Gober’s photolithographs add pastel drawings onto the pages of the September 12, 2001 edition New York Times, to explore the relationship between political events and human pathos. Other works explore the role of symbols in the formation of meaning, like the Israeli artist Benni Efrat whose work transfigures the familiar figure of the dove from a symbol of peace to that of victory. While some artists focus on the role of advertising and marketing in the mass media such as Daniele Buetti’s work that highlights the disjunction in advertising between desire and need.
Less traditional art forms will be used to highlight the importance of Rauschenberg’s artistic contributions, as well as the ever-expanding field of Art. Works like Antoni Kaniowski’s ppt.xxx harness the digital medium and extend issues of visual appropriation and transformation by consciously corrupting found PowerPoint files and redistributing them on the web. The show concludes with Questions, a single-channel video work recently created by collaborative artists Jeremiah Day, Simone Forti, and Fred Dewey. Questions brings the visitor full-circle to the interdisciplinary and collaborative artistic practices inaugurated by figures like Robert Rauschenberg alongside its various permutations within the history of art.