Robert Rauschenberg
3-83-B-25A, 1983


Doughnut? Apple? Bagel? The central image of Robert Rauschenberg’s 3-83-B-25A (1983)—a humble piece of food, pictured at an oblique angle and enlarged to billboard size—remains ambiguous. Although the precise circumstances of this unusual photograph are unclear, knowledge of Rauschenberg’s whereabouts when it was taken suggests a possible context. In March 1983 the artist was traveling in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Japan; he captured this image while in Tokyo. The following year, his long-standing international interests would find expression in the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI), a major project of 1984–91 intended to spur artistic and cultural exchange. Central to this initiative was an exhibition of his work that brought Rauschenberg and his assistants to a number of politically sensitive areas generally considered outside the mainstream international art circuit. As the show traveled, Rauschenberg worked with local artists to create new pieces for each presentation, and he took photographs to record his impressions and experiences.

3-83-B-25A (a title referring to the artist’s organization of images by date, folio, and negative number) is one of three black-and-white photographs from his 1983 trip to Japan that are known to have been printed, either as stand-alone pictures or for use in other artworks. Rauschenberg was likely drawn to the massively large scale of the image on the billboard, which resembles a giant projection screen. The concentric organization of the composition builds from a round or hollow central form to the ring of food, the pale rectangle of the billboard, the smooth charcoal-toned facade of an anonymous building, and, finally, the cloudless sky. This pairing of competing textures, patterns, and forms evokes the unexpected union of disparate materials that Rauschenberg sought to cultivate throughout his work. At the same time, when considered in the context of his travels, the photograph offers a glimpse into Rauschenberg’s early impressions of Asia, a region to which he would return as part of the ROCI tour.

Ownership, Exhibition, and Publication Histories

Ownership History

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchased from Douglas Elliott Gallery, San Francisco, 1983

Exhibition History

Rauschenberg: Photographs, Douglas Elliott Gallery, San Francisco, September 13–October 28, 1983.

This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of August 31, 2016.

Publication History

SFMOMA 75th Anniversary: David White,” interview conducted by Richard Cándida Smith, Sarah Roberts, Peter Samis, and Jill Sterrett, 2009, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2010, 70. Accessed June 23, 2013.

This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of August 31, 2016.

Marks and Inscriptions

Recto: Lower left margin, inscribed in black ink by the artist’s studio assistant Bradley Jeffries: “3-83-B-25A #1”; after inscription, signed by the artist: “RAUSCHENBERG”

Verso: None

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name

Date created
gelatin silver print
12 15/16 in. x 19 1/8 in. (32.86 cm x 48.58 cm)
Date Acquired
Collection SFMOMA
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

Research Materials

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