Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Did “Booster” foreshadow airport security scanners?

Robert Rauschenberg’s “Booster” from the “Booster and Seven Studies” – 1967, color lithograph and screenprint; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, (1970). Image is from the website. (In this fine website, the history of design is highlighted with seminal artifacts with explanatory captions.)

The U.S. Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) has started using whole-body imaging technology. Did artist Rauschenberg’s life-size lithographic print, Booster, foreshadow the new airport security scanners? Did he have a prophetic eye?

Apparently, after the X-rays were taken, Rauschenberg’s doctor told him, “I hope you don't get sick from all this radiation”.
One of the most successful of Rauschenberg’s collaborations has been with the Gemini GEL print workshop – a printmaking partnership that permanently changed the terrain of American printmaking. The artist’s highly experimental approach to print processes comes to the fore in the colour lithograph and screenprint Booster, created in 1967. For Booster, Rauschenberg decided to use a life-sized X-ray portrait of himself combined with an astrological chart, magazine images of athletes, the image of a chair and the images of two power drills. Printer Kenneth Tyler was a masterful facilitator for Rauschenberg’s ambitious project and the collaboration radically altered the aesthetic possibilities of planographic printmaking. Rauschenberg and Tyler pushed beyond what had previously been done by combining lithography and screenprinting in a new type of ‘hybrid’ print. The rules governing the size of lithographic printmaking were also ignored, and at the time of its creation Booster stood as the largest and most technically sophisticated print ever produced. Today, Booster remains one of the most significant prints of the twentieth century, a watershed that catapulted printmaking into a new era of experimentation.

Text taken from the National Gallery of Australia website.

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