As its title suggests, Robert Rauschenberg’s Port of Entry (1998) explores ideas of home, travel, and arrival. Part of the series Anagrams (A Pun), it also demonstrates the artist’s interest in structures of communication. In an anagram, the letters of a word are rearranged to make a new word. Here Rauschenberg achieved a similar feat with transfer images. Working with photographs printed on transparent sheets enabled him to experiment with multiple arrangements on the work’s three large adjoining panels, overlapping and repeating imagery as needed to create a layered yet unified composition.
In a narrative interpretation, Port of Entry could be viewed as a brief chronicle of the artist’s life. The two framed prints of boats anchoring the central panel reference the work’s title and might also be a nod to Rauschenberg’s birthplace: Port Arthur, Texas. Slightly higher, we find the grill of a New York Engine Company 33 fire truck resting above a pedestrian crossing sign. Rauschenberg gathered much of the material he used in his Combines (1953–64) and other early works on walks around his neighborhood, and many of these images also were drawn from the artist’s local streetscape. The fire engine, for instance, belonged to the firehouse around the corner from his Lafayette Street studio.
Rauschenberg also drew subject matter from his travels. A parade of elephants, a Belgian statue, and street signs and construction materials he photographed abroad overflow from the two outer panels into the center panel of Port of Entry, reflecting the artist’s long-standing interest in foreign cultures. As an artist, Rauschenberg gained access to areas that were difficult or impossible for the average American to visit. He exhibited in Moscow during the Cold War and met Fidel Castro while showing his work in Havana. The photograph of the Tibetan woman in braids on the left panel of Port of Entry, for example, was taken during the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI), which he founded in late 1984. This largely self-financed exhibition project took Rauschenberg and his assistants around the world between 1985 and 1991 and allowed them to meet and collaborate with local artists at each venue. By 1998, when Port of Entry was completed, Rauschenberg had traveled to more than twenty countries.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis, 1999
Robert Rauschenberg: Anagrams (A Pun), PaceWildenstein, New York, March 19–April 17, 1999.
Robert Rauschenberg, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 7–September 7, 1999.
Robert Rauschenberg at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 27–September 8, 2002.
Treasures of Modern Art: The Legacy of Phyllis Wattis at SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, January 30–June 24, 2003.
In addition to appearing in the special exhibitions listed above, Port of Entry was shown in SFMOMA’s galleries in 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2010 as part of a series of rotating presentations of the permanent collection.
This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of August 31, 2016.
Robert Rauschenberg: Anagrams (A Pun) (New York: PaceWildenstein, 1999), n.p. (ill.), cover image.
Kenneth Baker, “Rauschenberg Coup at SFMOMA: ‘Port of Entry’ a Major New Work,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1999.
David Bonetti, “Rauschenberg Coup Cements SFMOMA’s Ascendance,” San Francisco Examiner, May 21, 1999, (ill.).
Charlie Finch, “Rauschenberg’s Long Goodbye,” Artnet, December 8, 2000 (ill.). Accessed June 23, 2013. http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/reviews/finch/finch12-8-00.asp#6.
Jack Fischer, “SFMOMA’s Best Friend,” San Jose Mercury News, February 9, 2003.
Kenneth Baker, “SFMOMA Approaches Art with Fresh Eye,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 2004, (ill.).
Jack Fischer, “Escaping the Blockbuster Mentality,” San Jose Mercury News, September 26, 2004, (ill.).
Jess Hemerly, “A Sneak Peak at SFMOMA’s New Rooftop Garden,” 7x7, May 6, 2009. Accessed June 23, 2013. http://www.7x7.com/arts/sneak–peak–sfmomas–new–rooftop–garden.
“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, 44, 59, 69. Accessed June 23, 2013. http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/sfmoma/interviews.html.
Mark Getlein and Annabel Howard, eds., Art Visionaries (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2015), 166 (ill.).
This listing has been updated since the launch of the Rauschenberg Research Project and is complete as of August 31, 2016.
Recto: Lower right edge, signed by the artist in black: “RAUSCHENBERG 98”
Verso: Not available for inspection
- Artwork title
- Port of Entry [Anagram (A Pun)]
- Artist name
- Robert Rauschenberg
- Date created
- pigmented ink transfer on paper on aluminum panels
- 123 3/4 in. x 180 in. (314.33 cm x 457.2 cm)
- Date acquired
- Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
- © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
- Permanent URL
- Artwork status
- Not on view at this time.
Port of Entry [Anagram (A Pun)]
By Roni Feinstein, July 2013
Part of the Rauschenberg Research Project
In 1991 Robert Rauschenberg began to exploit a new method of incorporating photographic images into his paintings, abandoning both the silkscreen printing process he had been using for three decades and the transfer drawing technique involving chemical solvents that he had employed for almost four. The new process made use of state-of-the-art technologies and was in line with his interest in merging art and technology as well as his environmental concerns.