Time Capsule 1970: Rauschenberg's Currents

No. 48, from Surface Series From Currents, 1970

In 1970 Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), one of the most influential American artists in the second half of the twentieth century, produced Surface Series from Currents: eighteen large-scale screenprints that he considered “the most serious journalism I had ever attempted.” During a time of strident social and political change, the avant-garde artist—building on a career that featured an eclectic mix of popular art, found objects, gestural painting, and performance art—undertook an ambitious printmaking project. Surface Series from Currents superimposed images from two sets of collages, themselves formed from stories, headlines, advertisements, and images clipped from newspapers and tabloids, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times, many published in January and February 1970. The resulting series, on view at Princeton in its entirety for the first time, is both a technical feat of modernist printmaking and a chance to peer inside Rauschenberg’s time capsule of world events and witness the cacophony of violence, warfare, and political backlash that defined the currents of the time.