Robert Rauschenberg - Next Room
American, 1925 - 2008
Next Room, 2000
Screenprint, 31.5 x 23.5 inches
Edition 32/52
Gemini G.E.L.

Purchased by the William Davidson Institute

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1925, Robert Rauschenberg imagined himself first as a minister and later as a pharmacist. It wasn't until 1947, while in the U.S. Marines that he discovered his aptitude for drawing and his interest in the artistic representation of everyday objects and people. After leaving the Marines he studied art in Paris on the G.I. Bill, but quickly became disenchanted with the European art scene. After less than a year he moved to North Carolina, where the country's most visionary artists and thinkers, such as Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller, were teaching at Black Mountain College. There, with exciting young artists such as dancer Merce Cunningham and musician John Cage, Rauschenberg began what was to be an artistic revolution. Soon, North Carolina country life began to seem small and he left for New York to make it as a painter. There, amidst the chaos and excitement of city life Rauschenberg realized the full extent of what he could bring to painting, and other art forms.

Slink and Next Room are from a series of ten prints that take the ancient city of Marrakech as subject. Founded in Morocco in 1062 AD, Marrakech was the traditional capitol of the southern sultans and a major trade route for the Saharan caravans. In his exploration of the city and its history, Rauschenberg seeks out a lyrical collision of cultures through inventive collages of his own photographs. Bilingual banners call to mind the later occupation of the French; a Coca-Cola sign suggests a more recent colonization by American popular culture. Yet, in his fast-moving contrast of cultural identities, Rauschenberg suggests affinities among them. In Slink, veiled Muslim women are juxtaposed to decorative Islamic tiles and a hairdresser's sign that advertises in French and Arabic. In Next Room, a sign for the Oasis Hotel in Arabic and English is provocatively surrounded by images of stacked carpets, idle young men standing around a shop front, and a display of Kodak-processed photographs that include close-ups of tattooed hands and feet.