ProvenanceBernard Jacobson Gallery, London
Private Collection, Houston
Exhibition1991 "Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange" National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
2004 "Robert Rauschenberg, 2K + ROCI" Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
LiteratureBrooks, Rosetta et al. "Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange" Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991
With a career spanning six decades, Robert Rauschenberg changed art in America and the world. He revolutionized art in the 20th century through his assemblages incorporating found objects and pop culture. The layering of objects and meaning questioned the very idea of art and its boundaries. From painting to sculpture, Rauschenberg’s work occupied a space between Pop and Conceptual art.
This work was exhibited in the final Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1991. The artist believed in the power of art for social change which led to this self-funded series of exhibitions. Rauschenberg traveled to “sensitive” countries, often where artistic expression had been suppressed, to create dialogues through the creative process. From 1984 to 1991, he traveled to Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, China, Tibet, Japan, Cuba, the USSR, Germany, Malaysia, and finally the USA. While idealistic in its scope to bring the world together, the project was similar to the US promotion of Abstract Expressionism during the Cold War by spreading American culture and values through art.
The works he created for each stop incorporated imagery and culture from the host country. Shuttle Buttle is a stellar example with its depiction of an American space shuttle, Discovery. The implied reach to the stars hints at human possibilities and accomplishments capable through cooperation and education – the ultimate ideals of the United States. Even the reflective metal surface highlights the idea of technology and the future. These features are tempered by the ghostly sign in the lower left which alludes to the American tension of community and individualism. In addition to examining the content of the works, we must also ask ourselves questions of appropriation and cultural hegemony. Not just through the present lens, art critics at the time such as Roberta Smith brought up questions between altruism, self-aggrandizement, and imperialism.
Shuttle Buttle is also part of the Wax Fire Works in which Rauschenberg painted or silkscreened pigmented wax onto aluminum and fixed it using heat, similar to traditional encaustic painting. Rauschenberg melded traditional and contemporary techniques and materials to create an arresting series of works. Although complicated in its approach and implications, the series helped spark new art movements including in China. ROCI speaks to the possibilities of art to affect and reflect social change.
Installation view, Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) USA, National Gallery of Art Washington D.C., 1991
Robert Rauschenberg, “Pegasits/ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works)”, acrylic, fire wax, chair on stainless steel, 72 ¾ x 96 ¾ x 17 ½ in., 1991, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Robert Rauschenberg announcing ROCI at the UN Headquarters in New York with UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, 1984
Robert Rauschenberg, Park/ROCI Mexico, Acrylic, pencil, and crocheted doiles on canvas, 115 ½ x 52 3/8 in., 1985, Minneapolis Institute of Art
Top Results at Auction
Comparable Artworks Sold at Auction
- Monumental Rauschenberg from the same period
- Comparable size
- Our piece from 1990 has a clearer subject and brighter colors
- Comparable horizontal format
- Vibrant painting with a great subject, slightly larger than our piece
- Sold for over $2.6 million in 2007, and Rauschenberg’s market has grown