Jennifer L. Roberts - Printing on Air: Rauschenberg’s Hoarfrosts and the Paradox of Print
In 1974, Robert Rauschenberg made a series of prints called the Hoarfrosts with the legendary Los Angeles print studio Gemini G.E.L. The works featured ghostly images printed by solvent transfer onto gauzy, floating fabrics, hung so that they moved with the air. Rauschenberg said that he was “actually trying to dematerialize the surface as much as I could… I thought of them as shimmering information.” Yet these “dematerialized” objects were made under the massive pressures of a lithographic press, with most of their imagery deriving from layers of crumpled newspapers that were crushed almost beyond recognition as they transferred their ink to the fabric. What to make of this simultaneous lightness and heaviness of Rauschenberg’s prints — and how might this help us think about all printed matter?
Jennifer L. Roberts is the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, and Johnson-Kulukunkdis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. An Americanist by training, she has particular interests in print history, material studies, the theory and practice of making, and the history and philosophy of science. She received her A.B. in English and Art History from Stanford (1992) and her Ph.D. in History of Art from Yale (2000); she joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor in 2002. She was the Slade Visiting Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge University in 2019, and she will deliver the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art in 2021.
Roberts is the author of three books spanning American art from the 1760s to the 1970s: Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History (2004), Jasper Johns/In Press: The Crosshatch Works and the Logic of Print (2012), and Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America (2014). She has two current books in progress: Contact: the Intelligence of Print (the Mellon Lectures, to be published with Princeton University Press), and Life Signs: The Tender Science of the Pulsewave, co-authored with artist Dario Robleto (University of Chicago Press).
Roberts is also a founder, along with Ethan Lasser of the Harvard Art Museums, of the Minding Making Project, which aims to develop rigorous methods of incorporating technical and artisanal knowledge into the historical and interpretive disciplines.
Register here to attend the lecture through Zoom webinar. Live audience Q&A session over Zoom to follow.
Presented by the Department of Art History as part of the 2020/21 Smart Lecture series supported by the Smart Family Foundation.