In Robert Rauschenberg’s Hiccups (1978), ninety-seven sheets of handmade paper zip together to present a swath of imagery that at a distance resembles a color bar, the individual panels surrendering their details in a sweeping line of vibrant squares. All of the panels must be presented when the work is shown, but that is the only restriction on their installation. Hiccups may be hung in a single line (with breaks left for doorways and windows as needed) or stacked in several parallel horizontal rows. When the nine-by-seven inch units are assembled side by side, the work extends nearly sixty-three feet.
Upon close inspection, each panel presents a unique composite of images, sometimes overlaid with sheer scrims or brightly colored snippets of ribbon and fabric. Gathered from popular magazines, sprayed with solvent, and run through a lithographic press, the transferred images—including maps, landscapes and vegetation, pictures of athletes and other celebrities, and various illustrations—reflect American popular culture of the late 1970s as well as more enduring cultural themes. Because the sheets can be displayed in any order, the recurrence of particular motifs may be emphasized or diminished. A slow walk along the work’s length offers viewers a chance to track the unfolding of an endlessly variable interwoven narrative, extending across time.
Rauschenberg often incorporated scraps of clothing in his paintings and assemblages, using them to reference the human body and the textures of everyday life. A brief stint as a self-described “zipper inspector” for a bathing suit company in 1948 familiarized him with the functional qualities of zippers, and they begin to appear in his work by 1959. In Hiccups, the zippers not only allow the panels to be rearranged in any configuration but also provide the means for mounting them on the wall: simple metal brads are inserted through the holes in the zipper pulls. The zippers also directly structure the experience of viewing the work. The interruptions formed by the alternation of zippers and printed panels visually approximate a staccato rhythm that echoes an actual case of the hiccups.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of the artist in honor of Phyllis Wattis, 1999
Robert Rauschenberg—Works from Captiva, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, September 8–October 29, 1978.
Hiccups, The Center for Music, Drama and Art, Lake Placid, New York, June 28–July 15, 1979.
Five in Florida, Fine Arts Gallery, University of South Florida, Tampa, January 7–February 8, 1980.
Interlink Festival, Sogetsu Gallery, Tokyo, December 1–6, 1986.
Robert Rauschenberg, 1974–1991: Animals and Other Themes, City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, September 14–October 27, 1991.
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.
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, Hiccups was shown in SFMOMA’s galleries in 1999 and 2000 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.
James Auer, “He’s Taking His Works to Peking,” Milwaukee Journal, December 1, 1977.
Robert Rauschenberg—Works from Captiva (Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1978).
Five in Florida: Recent Work by Anuszkiewicz, Chamberlain, Olitski, Rauschenberg, Rosenquist (Tampa: University of South Florida, 1980), n.p. (ill.).
Denise Dickens and Denis Wood, Robert Rauschenberg, 1974–1991: Animals and Other Themes (Raleigh, NC: City Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1991), 1–24 (ill.), cover image.
Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, eds., Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 392, 398–401 (ill.).
Jen Scoville, “Rauschenberg’s Repartee: Facetious Facets of the Retrospective in Houston,” Texas Monthly, 1998. Accessed June 23, 2013. http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/rauschenberg%E2%80%99s-repartee.
Jack Fischer, “SFMOMA’s Best Friend,” San Jose Mercury News, February 9, 2003.
Susan Davidson, “Robert Rauschenberg,” Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection (Bilbao: Guggenheim Bilbao, 2009), 95n5.
“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, 45, 46, 55–56, 58–63, 70–71, 74. Accessed June 23, 2013. http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/sfmoma/interviews.html.
Kenneth Baker, “Tam Van Tran at Anthony Meier; Michael Voss at George Lawson,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Tam-Van-Tran-at-Anthony-Meier-Michael-Voss-at-5909472.php.
This listing has been updated since the launch of the Rauschenberg Research Project and is complete as of August 31, 2016.
Verso: Not available for inspection
- Artwork title
- Artist name
- Robert Rauschenberg
- Date created
- solvent transfer and fabric with metal zippers on 97 sheets of handmade paper
- 9 in. x 752 in. (22.86 cm x 1910.08 cm)
- Date acquired
- Collection SFMOMA
Gift of the artist in honor of Phyllis C. Wattis
- © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
- Permanent URL
- Artwork status
- Not on view at this time.
By James Merle Thomas, July 2013
Part of the Rauschenberg Research Project
Robert Rauschenberg’s Hiccups (1978)—a sprawling series of ninety-seven panels of handmade paper, embellished with fabric and an assortment of solvent transfer images—vividly illustrates a number of the major material investigations undertaken by the artist in the 1970s as he reaffirmed his commitment to marshaling vast amounts of photograph-based imagery into large-scale, encyclopedic formats.