This exhibition is organized for the Cantor Arts Center by James Merle Thomas (PhD, Art History, Stanford University, 2014) in close collaboration with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Based on more than thirty unique compositions Rauschenberg created during a brief but intense period after leaving Cape Canaveral, the thirty-four lithographs in Rauschenberg’s Stoned Moon Series were produced in collaboration with Ken Tyler, a master printer at Los Angeles–based Gemini G.E.L. studios. Alternately colorful and subdued, the prints range in scale from just over two feet to more than seven feet high. The largest and most complex work in the series, Sky Garden, represents an extraordinary technical achievement in printmaking, requiring one lithographic stone, four aluminum plates, and a silkscreen to produce the scale and visual effects the artist sought. At eighty-nine inches in height, Sky Garden was thought to be the largest hand-pulled lithograph ever created when it was printed in 1969. The smaller and more muted prints Brake and Fuse, shown together here, underscore Rauschenberg’s interest in blending photographic imagery with painterly abstraction. Upon close examination a number of historical references become visible across the Stoned Moon Series. For example, in Trust Zone, a sepia-toned image of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk—an iconic early photograph depicting the dawn of modern aviation—provides a literal foundation for an image of an astronaut. In other prints, such as Ape (which is in part a sly reference to NASA’s use of animals as passengers on their earliest flights) or Strawboss, one finds images of astrolabes, a device used by astronomers and navigators since antiquity to locate and predict the position of various heavenly bodies.
1. Robert Rauschenberg, Trust Zone (Stoned Moon), 1969; 2. Robert Rauschenberg, Sky Garden (Stoned Moon), 1969; 3. Robert Rauschenberg, Shell (Stoned Moon), 1969; 4. Robert Rauschenberg, Banner (Stoned Moon), 1969; 5. Robert Rauschenberg, Ape (Stoned Moon), 1970; 6. Robert Rauschenberg, Arena II State II (Stoned Moon), 1969