Artist: Robert Rauschenberg
Title of Work: Scent
Dimensions: 86″ x 50″
Material: Paper bags and silk chiffon, transferred lithograph and newspaper images.
Photo Line: Kennedy Museum of Art
Collection Credit: Collection of the Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio University
Like faded photographs or indistinct memories, works like this, from Rauschenberg’s Hoarfrost series, flit in and out of focus. Named for the light frosts that herald a change of season, this series evokes the temporality of natural cycles. To create Scent, a collage of disparate images culled from newspapers, magazines and family albums have been screen-printed onto paper bags and pieces of cloth. Photographs of an inverted office building, a windmill and plowed fields reflect traditional and modern views of American life, juxtaposed without a clear chronology. Obscured as if by a frosted pane, their muted tones blur the distinctions between urban and rural, past and present.
Throughout his career, Rauschenberg sought to work within the gaps between art and life. His interest in collage may draw on many hours spent as a child watching his mother piece together scraps of fabric to sew into clothing. Growing up in Depression-era Port Arthur, Texas, he and his family prided themselves on their ability to make do. Scraps of cloth and paper were not thrown away, but instead recombined and thus reincarnated. Likewise, the Hoarfrosts were printed on materials ranging from vintage lingerie silk to cheap cheesecloth, and they depict celebrities and classified ads without regard for hierarchies of high and low culture. Hanging down from the gallery wall, Scent sags, looking as if it might sway in a breeze like laundry on a line. In it, Rauschenberg seamlessly sews youthful memory into a contemporary context.
–Virginia McBride ‘15, Gund Gallery Volunteer