WOW! – Work of the Week 9/1/15

Robert Rauschenberg, Waves


Robert Rauschenberg,      Waves, from Stoned Moon,      1969

Robert Rauschenberg, Waves, from Stoned Moon, 1969


Robert Rauschenberg 
Waves, from Stoned Moon
89 x 42 in.
Edition of 27
Pencil signed and numbered


About This Work:

In 1969, NASA invited artist Robert Rauschenberg to witness the launch of Apollo 11, the spacecraft that would place man on the moon for the first time. The launch of Apollo 11 was seen as the most significant technological advancement. In terms of the global political climate, it marked the apex of the ‘space race’. 

For Rauschenberg, the moon mission represented a crucial occasion, far beyond the obvious scientific headway. Rather, the launch marked the end of a decade that had left Rauschenberg completely disillusioned. Prior to his official opportunity to witness man’s mission to the Moon, the core of his works in the 1960s incorporated popular political and social subject matter of war and destruction, as seen by media images of the Vietnam war, America’s race riots and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King. The launch gave him a new hope for the future. 

His Stoned Moon series consists of 34 works that cleverly captured the essence of the historical event far beyond any Walter Cronkite broadcast or television marathon. In his work Waves, one of the best and largest black-and-white images of the series, Rauschenberg sets the print in two landscapes the Earth and the Moon. Rauschenberg chose to appropriate two of the first pictures taken from the Moon in the bottom of the work. In the bottom right corner we see Neil Armstrong in his space suit taking his famous steps for mankind and on the left we see a reproduction of Aldrin’s photograph of his very own boot print. We also see astronauts floating in space and even the lunar modular on the moon at in the bottom of the work, which is set on the Moon and in space. Whereas, the top part of the work we can seen a scene from Earth, where the rocket is launching into space leaving plumes of smoke behind. Rauschenberg’s careful black-and-white scheme of Waves mimics the monochromatic nature of the Moon’s surface to emphasize the strange and mysterious atmosphere of the ‘Stoned moon’ as a visual metaphor for the future of man and technology.

The brushstrokes seen through out the work are seen as Rauschenberg’s artistic ties with Abstract Expressionism. Waves is a great example that shows Rauschenberg’s bridging the gap between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art – a style that made him famous and one of the most important contemporary artists.

About The Artist:

Robert Rauschenberg began what was to be an artistic revolution. Rauschenberg’s enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting.

By 1958, at the time of his first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, his work had moved from abstract painting to drawings like “Erased De Kooning” (which was exactly as it sounds) to what he termed “combines.” These combines (meant to express both the finding and forming of combinations in three-dimensional collage) cemented his place in art history.

This pioneering altered the course of modern art. The idea of combining and of noticing combinations of objects and images has remained at the core of Rauschenberg’s work.

As Pop Art emerged in the ’60s, Rauschenberg turned away from three-dimensional combines and began to work in two dimensions, using magazine photographs of current events to create silk-screen prints. Rauschenberg transferred prints of familiar images, such as JFK or baseball games, to canvases and overlapped them with painted brushstrokes. They looked like abstractions from a distance, but up close the images related to each other, as if in conversation.

These collages were a way of bringing together the inventiveness of his combines with his love for painting. Using this new method he found he could make a commentary on contemporary society using the very images that helped to create that society.

In 1998 The Guggenheim Museum put on its largest exhibition ever with four hundred works by Rauschenberg, showcasing the breadth and beauty of his work, and its influence over the second half of the century. 

For more information and price please contact the gallery at

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