Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends

*Mirthday Man (Anagram [A Pun])*

Robert Rauschenberg. Mirthday Man (Anagram [A Pun]). 1997

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Robert Rauschenberg. Mirthday Man (Anagram [A Pun]), 1997. Water-soluble inkjet dye and pigment transfer on polylaminate. Courtesy the Faurschou Foundation

Leah Dickerman: Mirthday Man is a work in the Anagram series that Rauschenberg made in the 1990s. Here he's using a very early Macintosh system. He'd select from hundreds, even thousands, that he would take, and his assistants printed these digitized images on transparent sheets with a large Iris inkjet printer. And because the ink that he used was water soluble, he could transfer the images onto a support using only a sponge or water or rags.

Lawrence Voyteck was Robert Rauschenberg's master art fabricator for many years.

Lawrence Voytek: And you wet zones and then you start burnishing and rubbing. It’s starting to turn into this skin. And you’re getting bumps and bruises and it’s almost like you’re putting tattoos down. He had these natural sponges. Bob was able to just kiss the colors he wanted and get deeper into other colors. So there’s a lot of real subtle hand work.

Leah Dickerman: The work was completed on a single day, his 72nd birthday. And at the very center is a full-scale x-ray of his body, that was taken in the 1960s and appears in some of the works that we've seen earlier in the show. He called that image a portrait of his inner man. It adds a sense of vulnerability of the body, contemplation of the ephemerality of life. And he sets that image in relationship to Florida palm trees and a fire engine from the station near his New York studio. So this work, I think, is particularly reflective, a kind of memento mori on the rich life that he had lived.

Robert Rauschenberg. Mirthday Man (Anagram [A Pun]), 1997. Water-soluble inkjet dye and pigment transfer on polylaminate. Courtesy the Faurschou Foundation
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