Rauschenberg described Rebus as “a record of the immediate environment and time.” A collection of words and images, it constitutes a kind of unsolvable puzzle. The materials, found in the neighborhood around his studio, include comic strips, fabric remnants, a museum poster, and a drawing by his friend the artist Cy Twombly. The work functions as both portrait and landscape, recording the artist’s creative impulses at the moment of its making, while also using materials drawn from mass media.
Gallery label from 2020.
Rebus belongs to a body of work in which Rauschenberg integrated three-dimensional objects with two-dimensional paintings. His friend Jasper Johns coined the term Combine for such works, describing them as “painting playing the game of sculpture.” Made from layers of everyday materials found in the neighborhood of his Lower Manhattan studio (comic strips, political posters, fabric, and drawings), this work maintains a flatter, sparser surface than most of the artist’s Combines.
Gallery label from 2011.