18 Wooster Street
Songs for Sale was an exhibition of three large-scale paintings by Robert Rauschenberg, David Salle, and Michael Bevilacqua.
The exhibition celebrated the tradition of the “big American painting,” the epic works of the New York School and Pop-era painters that reflected the scale of the American landscape and the sweep of the American vision.
The exhibition featured three ambitious works: Robert Rauschenberg’s Ten Yard Sale, 1999, 10 ½ x 29 feet, David Salle’s Songs for Sale, 1997, 10 x 85 feet, and Michael Bevilacqua’s Show Your Bones, 2006, 10 x 40 feet.
Robert Rauschenberg’s Ten Yard Sale was one of the largest works from the Anagrams (A Pun) series, the second phase of his Anagrams. Mary Lynn Klotz, author of Rauschenberg/Art and Life, described the Anagrams as telling “his story of the world in the last few years of the twentieth century through imagery collected from his travels. As in verbal anagrams, he rearranged his images to ‘discover a hidden message,’ one that brings the ordinary, the unique, and the universal into his own collaged-image patterns. As always, though the photographs record his experience, Rauschenberg left it up to the viewer to supply the narrative, to make a personal connection among the images the artist brought to paper.”
The rhythmic composition of the painting reflected Rauschenberg’s involvement in dance and performance. Its imagery seemed to represent the decaying symbols of American prosperity thrown out in a yard sale.
David Salle described Songs for Sale as “a cornucopia of American images.” In developing the
composition, the artist was inspired by the American musical theatre, reflected in the title. The composition was analogous to popular music and dance; it was full of syncopated and contrapuntal rhythms. “It’s like a big piece of sheet music,” Salle said of his mural. “Like a 19th century camping song or saloon song, grabbing disparate elements of the American Vernacular.”
The central image of the mural was that of painting itself – a canvas stretcher turned away from the viewer. The painting seen from behind was a classic image from American art history, referring both to the 19th-century trompe l’oeil tradition and to the self-reflexive attitude of much recent art. The composition flowed out in both directions from this center point of the reversed canvas. It was as if both ends of the painting could be brought together to form a continuous band, a great encircling loop. The disparate images flew and scattered through the painting space; the composition was fluid, almost liquid. The numerous shifts in scale kept the eye pulsing across the picture surface; it was a kind of perpetual motion machine for the eyes. There was also a feeling of sensual pleasure; the painting overflowed with images of things to eat and drink, to touch, and to hear.
The imagery was Pop and contemporary, but also referred to the 19th-century tradition of romantic transcendentalism. The work had the feeling of a circus sideshow; it invited the viewer to lose herself; to abandon, for a moment, linear reason in favor of heightened sensations. The painting was like a romantic journey through an expansive natural and cultural landscape. It was an essentially optimistic work which described the feeling of living today with a “can-do” sensibility, in open and external terms. The artist wished to reaffirm an engaging and central place of painting in American life.
Show Your Bones was Michael Bevilacqua’s largest and most ambitious painting. Its title referred to the way the imagery of the painting summed up the artist’s influences and his own history as an artist. The structure of the work corresponded to the structure of sampling and layering in contemporary musical composition. It also reflected the spliced and layered structure of contemporary consciousness. Bevilacqua’s composition included two surrogate self portraits, the doorway to his former studio, and a still life of wine bottles and spray cans, an allusion to the way he learned to paint as a teenager. There were also quotations from some of his earlier paintings and the big number 7 from the side of his painted race car. There was also an array of images from album covers and music videos that intersected with his artistic interests. There were references to Public Image Limited, Gorillaz, Radiohead, and Wolfmother.
Robert Rauschenberg’s Ten Yard Sale was presented courtesy of PaceWildenstein.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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