"Cunningham Relief," 1974 by Robert Rauschenberg
Cunningham Relief, 1974; Embossing with hand rubbed half-tone on Arches Buff paper; Signed Rauschenberg, numbered 9/100, and dated 74 lower right; Embossed UNTITLED PRESS lower left; Co-published by Multiples Inc. and Castelli Graphics, New York; Size - Sheet: 30 x 22 1/4"; Unframed.
"Understanding is a form of blindness. Good art, I think, can never be understood." - Robert Rauschenberg
Milton Ernest "Robert" Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works foreshadowed the emerging Pop Art movement. He is most associated with his artworks that he called "Combines," which were created from non-traditional materials and objects but were integrated into new and innovative combinations. The "Combines" also integrated both painting and sculpture into a single work of art. Rauschenberg also worked in photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance art. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993 and his artwork is shown and collected by all of the world's greatest museums. In 2010, one of his "Combines" entitled "Studio Painting" (1960-61) was sold by Michael Crichton through Christie's, New York auction house for $11 million.
Merce Philip Cunningham was an American dancer and choreographer was a leader in field for over 50 years. He is also remembered for his collaboration with other artists in other mediums including: John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg Bruce Nauman, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.
Rauschenberg's collaborative relationship with Merce Cunningham began in 1952, when they both participated in an performance art piece (Theater Piece No. 1) that was organized by composer John Cage at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. In 1954 Rauschenberg officially began working with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and over the next decade contributed to over twenty performances providing lighting and set/costume designs. Cunningham was interested in having Rauschenberg utilize found objects for the creation of the sets and costumes, thereby integrating the everyday into the dance performance. Their artistic relationship lasted for over six decades, with Rauschenberg describing the collaboration with Cunningham as founded on a "carte-blanche trust," attesting to the spirit of creative independence and their shared mutual respect.
"Cunningham Relief," is an extremely well executed work of art. It has as it's central focus a pair of dancers, with the female being balanced on the upper body of the male. There are four rows of dancers, created by embossing, that are arranged in rows both above and below the darker hand rubbed half-tone pair. The top row has a two pairs of dancers, the left pair bending down to touch the floor and the right pair lying down on the floor side by side and resting on the tips of their toes. The next row down has the half-tone balanced dancer pair and a walking figure to the left and four standing figures to the right. The third row consists of three smaller full figure dancers in different poses, but all with their arms outstretched and balancing on one foot. The last row is made up of four figures all seated in different positions on the floor, and a fifth larger dancer who has jumped slightly off the floor. The print technique of embossing is so wonderful, as it creates the light shadow outline of dancers and figures, suggesting movements across a stage. The combination of embossing and half-tone results in a very balanced composition in both forms and light values. This work was initially published and sold in order to raise funds for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in New York. This is a beautiful original hand signed work of art by Robert Rauschenberg and a great addition to any art collection!
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