Samarkand Stitches #VII (1988) by Robert Rauschenberg is a collage made up of different patterned fabrics screenprinted with various photographs. The use of the polka dot fabric in particular recalls an earlier seminal assemblage by the artist, Yoicks (1953).
This piece was made during an ambitious project, entitled the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI), which took Rauschenberg around the world to promote peace and understanding through the universal language of art. Between 1984 and 1991, he visited eleven countries, from Berlin and the USSR, to Japan, Cuba and South America. These were places that the artist considered underdeveloped and/or politically repressed. He believed in the importance of creating global cultural dialogues and treated the tours as intense research trips, where he could expand his palette and gain further inspiration for his own practice. In each country, he worked with local artisans to learn traditional artistic techniques and created multi-media works that were influenced by the respective local cultures and materials, and exhibited at local museums. The tour eventually culminated with a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. consisting of more than 170 works. These included large-scale paintings, sculptures and other art objects that were characterized by explosive, highly charged colors, and a lively textural quality. ROCI continues today as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which supports collaboration and cultural exchange.
The Samarkand Stitches #VII resulted from Rauschendberg’s visit to Uzbekistan. One of 72 variations, the piece is a unique fabric construction with screenprinting created at Gemini G.E.L. Los Angeles. In this series, Rauschenberg printed his own travel photographs onto a patchwork of indigenous and domestic fabrics to create vibrant panels that are as much a representation of Samarkand’s culture as an expression of Rauschenberg’s aesthetic.
–Victoria Kung ’14, Curatorial Intern