In ’68, Robert Rauschenberg Predicts the Web

THE DAILY PIC: At Sandra Gering, the artist watches as we drown in images.

Rauschenberg-ApologyA LR

This is Robert Rauschenberg’s “Apology”, from a group show called “Strategies of Non-Intention: John Cage and Artists He Collected”, at the Sandra Gering gallery in New York. Robert Rauschenberg made this 1968 piece by cutting out newspaper pictures, wetting them with turpentine or lighter fluid, putting them face-down on paper and finally rubbing their backs with a pencil to transfer their images. Like the other works in the show, it counts as Cage-ian because the artist lets chance govern what ends up in the image: Since his sources were face-down when he rubbed them, Rauschenberg couldn’t control just how his final work would look. To me, however, the works rubbed markings look like the scan lines of early black-and-white TV; its random pile of imagery looks like the random flow of pictures that came rushing in from the boob tube. In our current obsession with the Web’s pictorial overflow, we forget that television, too, once felt as though it was drowning us in disconnected pictures.

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