For 29 days, a distinct artwork was exhibited simultaneously on both coasts. Robert Rauschenberg’s 4 panel white monochromes were displayed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, while also exhibited at the Met Breuer in New York City. These paintings, though visually identical, served different purposes in their respective exhibitions. At the Met, they were deliberately unfinished; at the Hammer, they were an antecedent to geometric abstraction.
The monochromes, like all images, do not exist in a vacuum. Where an image is and where it has been leave unseen semiotic marks. There is no neutral space in which to view art, no void in which to behold it. Context, in and of itself, is active.
Yet context can be subverted, and in turn, can affect the perception of content. What happens when an image is paired with text? What if that same image accompanies writing of an opposing view? An image is the alpha, not the omega. It looks to its surroundings, both past and present, and calls out, “What do I mean?”
No answer emerges from the ether; it must be excavated. Gradually, responses are assembled. The most informed of these rejoinders rely on environmental surveillance. But if the setting can be changed, what becomes of these answers? Is to command context to define substance?
For images please click here.