As an avid environmentalist, Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) designed the first Earth Day poster to benefit the American Environment Foundation in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Twenty years later, Rauschenberg created this color silkscreen and color pochoir on wove paper to celebrate the success of the 1990 Earth Day, which had 200 million participants.
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“Everything has an opposite pole,” said Jeff Koons (b. 1955) of his Luxury and Degradation sculptures. “If you just present optimism without a darker side… there’s no definition of optimism.” The 1986 series appropriates imagery from advertisements and memorabilia for alcoholic beverages—fertile ground to stir up ideas about class, commerce and nostalgia. These highly polished objects have an aura of opulence, but are in fact made from stainless steel. “To me, the stainless steel is the material of the proletarian, it’s what pots and pans are made of. It’s very hard material and it’s fake luxury,” Koons explained.
The artist’s crowning achievement from the body of work is Jim Beam J.B. Turner Engine, a 9.5-foot-long model of a steam engine that’s loaded with bottles of whiskey. “I find it a very powerful image,” Koons said. “An image about progress, about future, about strength.” As always, Koons hovers on the edge of sincerity: his inspiration for the artwork was not an actual locomotive, but rather a kitschy decanter in the shape of one. He included an image of the Jim Beam sculpture in a set of three photolithographs named for the series. The Luxury & Degradation portfolio (1986) depicts the artist’s renditions of the steam engine, a Baccarat crystal set and a fisherman golfer figurine. Scroll down to see the works and learn more.
Above: Jeff Koons, by Andrew Burton AFP.
Jeff Koons Luxury and Degradation
photolithograph (portfolio of three prints)
32 x 24 in. each
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“Very quickly, a painting is turned into a facsimile of itself,” said Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008). “One becomes so familiar with it that one recognizes it without looking at it.” He could’ve been talking about Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which makes a cameo in his 1996 intaglio printBanco, from Ground Rules. The portrait is so rooted in the modern cultural consciousness that we can instantly conjure it in our mind’s eye.
Thus, it’s a perfect tool for exploring the concept of authorship: the painting appears next to a window emblazoned with the words “YOUR NAME HERE.” By presenting the world’s most iconic painting beside advertising lingo, the postmodern master asks whether true ownership of an image is possible in the age of mass media. Learn more about the print below, and browse more works by Rauschenberg.
Donald Sultan (b. 1951) emerged as a master of the New Image movement in the 1970’s, producing elegant, minimalist imagery using industrial materials that were decidedly postminimal. Abstracted blooms are an iconic motif in his work. The new screen print in our collection offers a prime example of Sultan’s style, characterized by stark, black forms amid vibrant fields of color. In the print, tar and flocking enhance the dark fields, transforming them into infinite chasms with powerful visual gravity.
Scroll down to view our new Sultan screen print—along with a full bouquet of the artist’s flower compositions—in the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection, and click here to browse all available works.
Add a piece of art history to your walls this winter! There’s a new Special Offerssection on the Zane Bennett Contemporary Art website, featuring exceptional pricing on works by legendary artists. Scroll down to view prints by Pop Art icons and Pop-inspired artists from the new collection, and make sure to bookmark the Special Offers page for future additions.
You might say that Pop artist Robert Indiana (b. 1928) lived the American Dream. Throughout the artist’s early childhood in Indiana, his family lived in poverty. They moved 21 times before Indiana turned 17, and his mother worked as a waitress in greasy spoon diners to make ends meet. Flash forward to the late 1950’s, and Indiana was a 20-something living in New York City and cavorting with the likes of Andy Warhol and Wynn Chamberlain. His hard-edged oil compositions bearing bright colors, provocative phrases and culturally significant numbers had caught the eye of the contemporary art world. In 1965, Indiana designed a Christmas card for MoMA featuring scarlet, stacked letters that spelled out “LOVE.” It would become his most iconic image, landing on a USPS postage stamp in 1973.
A few years before he created the LOVE image, Indiana looked back on his path to success with the first painting in his American Dream series. The same composition appears in Indiana’s 1997 serigraph Tilt from The American Dream, which is new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. In the image, highly personal symbolism mingles with universal markers of Americanism.
The circles and stars that appear throughout the piece riff on advertising aesthetics of the period. In the black and yellow circle at top left, the numbers reference highways he roamed as a young man (including Route 66). The phrases “TAKE ALL” and “THE AMERICAN DREAM” represent an industrious but viciously competitive national ethos. In the bottom left circle, the word “TILT” evokes the pinball machines that Indiana encountered in the diners where his mother worked, and later in dive bars that he frequented. When paired with the other words in the tableau, “TILT” throws the egalitarian premise of The American Dream into question. This was the first of nine images in the American Dream series, created between 1961 and 2001. Tilt from the American Dream represents of Indiana’s epic, career-spanning exploration of the promises and pitfalls of American idealism.
Despite being credited with a Pop sensibility, Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) defies categorization with his diverse output of photographic books and tongue-in-cheek photo-collages, paintings, and drawings. Ruscha’s work is inspired by the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in Los Angeles, which he often conveys by placing glib words and colloquial phrases atop photographic images or fields of color. Known for painting and drawing with unusual materials such as gunpowder, blood, and Pepto Bismol, Ruscha draws attention to the deterioration of language and pervasive clichés in pop culture.
Ruscha’s lithographRelos Arenais new to the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection. The artist’s bold style and idiosyncratic splatter effects are on dynamic display in the piece, but it also possesses an elegance and subtlety that echoes its subject matter. Scroll down to view detail images of this work, and click here to inquire now.