Rauschenberg made one drawing for each Canto, or section, of Dante’s poem The Inferno (1308–1321). Together they are a virtual encyclopedia of modern-day imagery, made by transferring photographic reproductions from magazines or newspapers onto the drawing surface. This was accomplished by moistening the drawing sheet with a liquid that acts as a solvent for printer’s ink. “I think a picture is more like the real world when it’s made out of the real world,” Rauschenberg said. With additional imagery in pencil, crayon, pastel, and collage, the drawings reflect Rauschenberg’s desire to infiltrate his art with the scenes and sounds of the surrounding world, a radical departure from the more transcendent ambitions of Abstract Expressionism. In 1963 this series was among the first works by Rauschenberg to be acquired by the Museum. It was the subject of an exhibition here in 1965.
Gallery label from 2008.