Whitney Museum of American Art

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Whitney Museum Presents Synapsis Shuffle, a New 

Masterwork by Robert Rauschenberg

Monumental project is composed of 52 paintings

Artist's singular tribute to performance and chance will go on view June 29; promised gift to the Whitney Museum

Twelve people invited by the artist to install the work for its Whitney debut David Byrne, Chuck Close, Merce Cunningham, Renee Fleming, Walter Hopps, Robert Hughes, Mathilde Krim, Michael Ovitz, Edwin Schlossberg, Ileana Sonnabend Martha Stewart, Mike Wallace


Rauschenberg and Editor

New Yolk, May2000 - Maxwell L. Anderson, director of The Whitney Museum of American Art, has announced the presentation and promised gift of a new masterwork by Robert Rauschenberg (b. l925). The monumental work, entitled Synapsis Shuffle (l999), is comprised of 52 paintings. The work's title and its 52-part structure allude to a deck of cards, and capture Synapsis Shuffle's singular nature: its constituent parts are meant to be re-assembled by different people each time it is installed, so that new works are continually created from it.


The artist has stipulated that those participating in the project must compose a work that consists of at least three and no more than seven panels. He also requires that each installerr be credited as composer of that work. The following people have each created a work from among Synapsis shuffle's 52 panels; their compositions will go on view at the Whitney June 29. Many are longtime friends or colleagues of the artist, several are people with whom Rauschenberg chose to collaborate for the first time on this particular project:


David Byrne, artist; Chuck close, artist; Merce Cunningham, choreographer; Renee FIeming, soprano; Walter Hopps, curator, The Menil Collection, Houston; Robert Hughes, art critic, Time magazine; Mathilde Krim, Ph.D, Founding co-Chair and Chairman of the Board, American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR); Michael Ovitz, Founder, CKE Companies, and art collector; Edwin Schlossberg, interactive designer and author; Ileana Sonnabend, art dealer and collector; Martha Stewart, CEO, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.; Mike Wallace, co-editor, 60 Minutes.


The museum will devote nearly 6,000 square feet of gallery space to the project, which will tour to museums nationally and internationally after its Whitney showing closes, on October 8, 2000. Synapsis Shuffle is a promised gift to the Whitney from Leonard A. Lauder, Chairman of the Whitney Museum.


As much a performance piece as it is a work of painting or sculpture, Synapsis Shuffle epitomizes the reliance upon chance and the viewer that have been the hallmarks of Rauschenberg's career. Further, its panels convey the extraordinary range of imagery that the artist has mined from photographs he has taken on global travels over three decades. Ranging from the everyday to the exotic, the images include snapshots of street life and buildings; pictures culled from the media and advertising; and lyric passages of nature. Synapsis  Shuffle was created in the artist's studio in Captiva, Florida, and has not yet been displayed anywhere.


Mr. Anderson commented, "Synapsis Shuffle is a phenomenal work of heroic proportions. It epitomizes Rauschenberg's ability to wrestle beauty and poetry from the mundane incidents of everyday life, and his uncanny use of chance and performance as essential aspects of his art."


Anderson continued, "The Whitney is profoundly indebted to Leonard Lauder, who had the vision to recognize the genius of this work and the extraordinary generosity to make it a promised gift to the Museum."


Born in 1925, Robert Rauschenberg is a pivotal figure in contemporary art. Over his 50-year career he has redefined the way we conceive of and experience such traditional forms of art-making as painting and sculpture.


Rauschenberg is credited with defining a critical period in American art in the late 50s and early 60s -- bridging the movements of Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, and the mediums of painting and sculpture, by integrating expressionist gesture with objects and images from everyday life. A key concept underlying much of his work has been empowering viewers by allowing them to interact with and in some cases alter his work. During the late 50s and into the 1960s, Rauschenberg became deeply involved in performance and dance, working closely with such figures as Trisha Brown and Merce Cunningham.


Rauschenberg's work has continued to evolve in increasingly complex ways, in its scale, its media and the ways in which the artist has engaged his art as an agent of social change. With his l984-9l ROCl project (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange), for example, the artist brought his work to eleven countries, instigating artistic and cross-cultural dialogue around the world. He continues to create the large-scale paintings and metal sculptures that he first explored during the l980s.


The heroic proportions of one series - The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece (1981-present) -- can be seen as a precursor to those of Synapsis Shuffle. A sequence comprising 189 painting and sculptural elements, it spans nearly 1 ,000 feet and is still a work in progress, reflecting the ongoing phases of the artist's work and life. Like The 1/4 Mile..., Shuffle has no finished point and is in perpetual evolution. Also like the earlier work, Shuffle incorporates the artist's own photographs, which have been the basis for his work of the past three decades.


Placing Synapsis Shuffle in the context of Rauschenberg's career, Marla Prather, the Whitney's new curator of postwar art, who is overseeing its presentation at the Whitney and its future venues, commented, "It's a consummate Rauschenberg. Synapsis Shuffle integrates many aspects of his career: the poignant and seemingly chance collisions of images in his monumental collages; his deep involvement in dance and performance; and his omniverous incorporation of the world into his art."


Prather continued, "It's the expansiveness of Rauschenberg's sensibility, and his ability to engage people all over the world in his art, that have greatly distinguished Rauschenberg's career. His work is at once celebratory and inclusive, and Synapsis Shuffle epitomizes these qualities."


Rauschenberg's work is in hundreds of collections around the world. The collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art includes 47 of his paintings, drawings, photographs and prints. Rauschenberg first showed at the Whitney in the 1961 Annual Exhibition of Painting, precursor of the Biennial exhibitions. His work was most recently on view at the Whitney in Part II of The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000, last fall. He lives and works in Captiva, Florida.


''I am especially gratified," Mr. Anderson commented, "that in a year of the Biennial, our signature showcase for emerging artists, the museum has been able to make such a remarkable commitment to a senior American artist of such singular accomplishment."


Synapsis Shuffle is a promised gift of Leonard A. Lauder. Chairman and former President of the Whitney Museum, Mr. Lauder has been a devoted trustee and active patron of the Whitney since 1977. During his 23 years on the Board, he has made substantial gift of art to the holdings of the Whitney Museum, the leading collection of 20th-century American art in the world. These have included, in recent years, Agnes Martin's extraordinary suite of paintings, The Islands, in l994; a spectacular group of 320 American prints from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in l998; and five classic paintings from the early 1950s by Ad Reinhardt, also in 1998. Mr. Lauder also initiated and chaired the Campaign for the Whitney during l994-98, which not only raised more than $50 million for the Museum, but made possible the creation of new galleries to house the Museum's renowned collection of prewar American art. These galleries were named the Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Galleries in recognition of Mr. Lauder's outstanding commitment to the Museum.

Synapsis Shuffle


©Rauschenberg/Saff & Co.,