Robert Rauschenberg: Thirty-Four Drawings for Dante’s Inferno

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Leah Dickerman
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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Published in a limited edition of just 500 copies, Robert Rauschenberg: Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno is a clothbound clamshell box containing a facsimile edition of Rauschenberg’s series of drawings from 1958–60, each reproduced at actual size on individual sheets. Rauschenberg made one drawing for each Canto, or section, of Dante’s poem The Inferno (1308–1321). Together they are a virtual encyclopedia of modern-day imagery, made by transferring photographic reproductions from magazines or newspapers onto the drawing surface. “I think a picture is more like the real world when it’s made out of the real world,” Rauschenberg said. With additional imagery in pencil, crayon, pastel, and collage, the drawings reflect Rauschenberg’s desire to infiltrate his art with the scenes and sounds of the surrounding world, a radical departure from the more transcendent ambitions of Abstract Expressionism.