Robert Rauschenberg, Pyramid Series, 1974

Overview

Robert Rauschenberg’s Pyramid Series (1974) comprises seven untitled works that combine uniform sheets of paper with irregularly shaped pieces of fabric. Made with the assistance of Robert Petersen at Untitled Press, Inc., a print workshop the artist established at his studio on Captiva Island, Florida, these works were created by pressing partially folded swatches of cheesecloth between sheets of paper that had been treated with adhesive. This process sealed the triangles of folded cloth between the paper sheets, allowing the remaining lengths of fabric to hang below. The action of passing the folded cheesecloth and paper layers through a printing press produced the raised pyramid shapes that give the series its name.

Rauschenberg was drawn to the shape, texture, and material history of the pieces of cheesecloth commonly used by printers to clean lithographic stones and etching plates. The cloths in the Pyramid Series works came from his own print studio and are marked by stains and dabs of ink that convey their former purpose. Like the unconventional use of the printing press in these works, this recycling of cast-off studio supplies was typical of Rauschenberg’s open-minded and experimental approach to his art materials.

Although Rauschenberg considered the seven units in the Pyramid Series to be independent artworks that could be exhibited individually, he preferred that they all be shown together, with the order and spacing left to the discretion of the curator. His installation instructionsstate: “Depending on the space one ‘line-up’ looks better than another. Play by eye.” Together the works project a shared sense of graceful tranquility. The pared-down aesthetic of the series and its responsiveness to changes in surrounding light and air currents recall the artist’s White Paintings (1951) and are consistent with much of his other work from the early 1970s. Following his move from New York to Captiva Island in fall 1970, Rauschenberg began to work with a restricted palette, spare shapes, and a narrow range of simple ephemeral materials such as cardboard, paper, and sand, a shift that reflected both his change of environment and the emerging vocabulary of Postminimalism. Representing Rauschenberg at his most restrained and refined, the Pyramid Series stands as a moment of quiet elegance in his often exuberant body of work.

Ownership, Exhibition, and Publication Histories

Ownership History

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis, 1998

Exhibition History

Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, May 4–25, 1974 (SFMOMA 98.300.1–7 shown).

Robert Rauschenberg: Drawings, Visual Arts Gallery, School of Visual Arts, New York, February 24–April 2, 1975, (SFMOMA 98.300.3, 98.300.6, and 98.300.7 shown).

Robert Rauschenberg, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., October 30, 1976–January 2, 1977. Traveled to: Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 25–May 17, 1977; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 24–August 21, 1977; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, September 25–October 30, 1977; Art Institute of Chicago, December 3, 1977–January 15, 1978 (SFMOMA 98.300.1 and 98.300.3 shown).

Twelve Americans: Masters of Collage, Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York, November 17–December 30, 1977 (SFMOMA 98.300.6 shown).

Fabric into Art, Amelia A. Wallace Gallery, State University of New York, College of Old Westbury, April 14–May 9, 1980. Traveled to: State University of New York, Albany, March 16–April 18, 1982 (SFMOMA 98.300.5 shown as Pyramid Drawing). Additional venues (State University of New York, Alfred, and State University of New York, Brockport) could not be confirmed.

Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, September 19, 1997–January 7, 1998. Traveled to: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, February 13–May 17, 1998; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, June 27–October 11, 1998; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, November 21, 1998–March 7, 1999 (SFMOMA 98.300.1–2 and 98.300.4–7 shown).

Robert Rauschenberg, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 7–September 7, 1999 (unknown which five of the seven units were shown).

Robert Rauschenberg at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 27–September 8, 2002 (SFMOMA 98.300.1–6 shown).

Treasures of Modern Art: The Legacy of Phyllis Wattis at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, January 30–June 24, 2003 (unknown which six of the seven units were shown).

Robert Rauschenberg: Traveling ’70–’76, Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal, October 26, 2007–March 30, 2008. Traveled to: Haus der Kunst, Munich, May 9–September 14, 2008; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy, October 22, 2008–January 19, 2009 (SFMOMA 98.300.1–7 shown).

In addition to appearing in the special exhibitions listed above, Pyramid Series was shown in SFMOMA’s galleries in 1999, 2000 (SFMOMA 98.300.1–7), and 2004 (SFMOMA 98.300.2–7) as part of a series ofrotating presentations of the permanent collection.

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

Publication History

Hayden Herrera, “Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg,” ARTnews 73, no. 8 (October 1974): 110.

Rosalind Krauss, “Rauschenberg and the Materialized Image,” Artforum 13, no. 4 (December 1974): 43 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.6).

Twelve Americans: Masters of Collage (New York: Andrew Crispo Gallery, 1977), n.p. (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.6).

Jeff Perrone, “Robert Rauschenberg,” Artforum 15, no. 6 (February 1977): 30.

Charles F. Stuckey, “Reading Rauschenberg,” Art in America 65, no. 2 (March–April 1977): 84.

Dieter Ruckhaberle, ed., Rauschenberg: Werke 1950–1980, trans. Janni Müller-Hauck and Vincent Thomas (Berlin: Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin, 1980), 346 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.1), 389.

Fabric into Art (Old Westbury, NY: State University New York, 1980), 3, 17 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.5, identified as Pyramid Drawing), 32.

Cynthia Nadelman, “Fabric in Art,” ARTnews 79, no. 7 (September 1980): 244–45.

Peg Churchill Wright, “Brush Marks,” Schenectady Gazette (New York), April 8, 1982.

Hayden Herrera, “Rauschenberg’s Scroll,” Connoisseur (January 1983): 57.

Rauschenberg: The White and Black Paintings 1949–1952 (New York: Larry Gagosian Gallery, 1986), n.p.

Mary Lynn Kotz, Rauschenberg, Art and Life (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990), 195.

Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, eds., Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 352–53 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.1–2 and 98.300.4–7).

Yve-Alain Bois, “Early Lead,” Artforum 36, no. 1 (September 1997): 97 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.5–7), 152.

Michael Barnes, Shermakaye Bass, Christopher Schade, and Jeanne Claire Van Ryzin, “Art Log: The Road to Rauschenberg, A Critical Junket,” Austin American-Statesman (Texas), March 26, 1998.

Kenneth Baker, “Rauschenberg Coup at SFMOMA: ‘Port of Entry’ a Major New Work,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1999.

Mark A. Cheetham, Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure since the ’60s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 50.

Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg: Works, Writings and Interviews (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2006), 96.

Yve-Alain Bois, Josef Helfenstein, and Clare Elliott, Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related Pieces (Houston: The Menil Collection, 2007), 25 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.1–2 and 98.300.4–7), 26.

Mirta D’Argenzio, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: Travelling ’70|’76 (Milan: Electa, 2008), 16, 23, 31, 44, 100–101 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.5–7), 178, 231–34.

Bruno Marchand, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: Crítica e obra de 1949 a 1974 (Porto, Portugal: Fundação de Serralves, 2008), 184.

Willibald Sauerländer, “Im Schutt der Industriegesellschaft,” Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich), May 13, 2008.

Yve-Alain Bois, “Pause,” Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no. 108 (Summer 2009): 63 (ill. of SFMOMA 98.300.1–2 and 98.300.4–7).

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, 5, 31, 37, 53, 55, 57, 59, 71. Accessed June 23, 2013. https://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/sfmoma/interviews.html.

Catherine Craft, Robert Rauschenberg (London: Phaidon, 2013), 95.

Robert Rauschenberg: A Visual Lexicon (New York: Castelli Gallery, 2014), 20, 21 (ill.), 23.

This listing has been updated since the launch of the Rauschenberg Research Project and is complete as of August 31, 2016.

Marks and Inscriptions

98.300.1

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D014”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1F 74”

98.300.2

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D011”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1D 74”

98.300.3

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D013”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1C 74”

98.300.4

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D010”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1A 74”

98.300.5

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D012”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1E 74”

98.300.6

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D008”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1G 74”

98.300.7

Recto: Upper left edge, embossed signature: “Rauschenberg”

Verso: Bottom edge, inscription in pencil: “74.D009”; lower right edge, inscription in pencil: “Δ1B 74”

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Pyramid Series
Artist name
Robert Rauschenberg
Date created
1974
Classification
collage
Medium
embossed paper and fabric
Dimensions
dimensions variable
Date Acquired
1998
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
Copyright
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.300.1-7
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

Research Materials

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