Robert Rauschenberg
Barge, 1962–63
Oil and silkscreened ink on canvas
203 x 980 cm
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and with additional funds contributed by Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum; the International Director’s Council and Executive Committee Members: Eli Broad, Elaine Terner Cooper, Ronnie Heyman, J. Tomilson Hill, Dakis Joannou, Barbara Lane, Robert Mnuchin, Peter Norton, Thomas Walther, and Ginny Williams; and funds from additional donors: Ulla Dreyfus-Best; Norma and Joseph Saul Philanthropic Fund; Elizabeth Rea; Eli Broad; Dakis Joannou; Peter Norton; Peter Lawson-Johnston; Michael Wettach; Peter Littmann; Tiqui Atencio; Bruce and Janet Karatz; and Giulia Ghirardi Pagliai 97.4566

Gallery 206

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Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly are two of the most prominent and influential artists of the second half of the 20th century. Both studied at the legendary Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and by the mid-1950s they had developed their signature visual languages. In contrast to the heroic gestures characteristic of Abstract Expressionist painting, Twombly’s calligraphic marks, sometimes rendered simply in black on white painted surfaces, have frequently been compared to graffiti. This apparently abstract vocabulary could be infused with deep cultural significance, as Twombly often made direct reference to classical literature and mythology in his art. Rauschenberg can be considered a precursor to Pop art because his Combine works—part painting, part sculpture—feature everyday objects found on the street and images taken from magazines and newspapers. Yet Rauschenberg’s works typically reveal expressionistic traces of the artist’s hand that distinguish them from the cool, detached aesthetic of Pop. The pieces shown here are two of the artists’ most iconic—and monumental—creations. Barge (1962–63), which Rauschenberg painted in a single 24-hour period, is one of the best examples of the dynamic, silkscreened paintings he began making in the 1960s. The title of Twombly’s Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963) refers to the disastrous rein of Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus (ruled 177–192 CE). The work comprises multiple individual canvases that suggest a narrative of great passion through abstract imagery

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