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March 18, 2022

Acquisition: Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Tinguely, Edward Kienholz, and Charles Ross Included in Recent Gift from Virginia Dwan

Robert Rauschenberg, 'Untitled'

Robert Rauschenberg
Untitled (For Virginia with Hook), 1965
printed paper, staples, Plexiglas, screws, washers, and hook
overall: 23.5 x 25.4 cm (9 1/4 x 10 in.)
National Gallery of Art,  Washington
Gift of Virginia Dwan

One of the most important art dealers of the late 20th century, Virginia Dwan (b. 1931) presented seminal exhibitions of such movements as pop art, nouveau réalisme, minimal art, conceptual art, and land art during the storied 11-year run of her galleries in Los Angeles and New York. Dwan’s most recent gifts to the National Gallery from her personal collection include a major painting by Ad Reinhardt (1913–1967), two collages by Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), and sculptures by Jean Tinguely (1925–1991), Edward Kienholz (1927–1994), and Charles Ross (b. 1937). They join Dwan’s numerous other gifts as part of a promised donation of some 250 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, films, and artists’ books. Many of these works were featured in the 2016–2017 National Gallery exhibition Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971, which traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2017.

The focus of two solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles Dwan Gallery in 1961 and 1963, Reinhardt was also included in the minimalist group show Ten at the New York gallery in 1966. The black square of Reinhardt’s Ultimate Painting (1963) was the artist’s preferred shape for his late works and his most iconic format.

Rauschenberg made Maquette for Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition at Dwan Gallery (1962) in advance of his show at the Los Angeles Dwan Gallery in 1962. Containing a crossword puzzle revealing the gallery’s address and the show’s opening date, a Western Union envelope and telegram addressed to the artist, and transfer drawings rubbed onto the paper sheet, the collage served as the exhibition announcement. A second work, Untitled—(For Virginia with Hook) (1965), is built up from torn fragments of printed and colored papers that the artist glued and stapled to a paper support. Pressed behind Plexiglas, the arrangement is held together by screws and grommets and is meant to be hung from a metal hook. This gift brings two valuable collages produced at the height of Rauschenberg’s career to the nation’s collection.

Tinguely’s Odessa (1963) was included in Dwan’s 1963 exhibition of the Swiss artist’s mechanical sculptures. Composed of three rotating wheel hubs bound to one another by their original rubber straps, the sculpture is activated by an electric foot pedal. A superb example of kinetic art, Odessa is the first sculpture by Tinguely to enter the National Gallery collection.

Kienholz’s assemblage Portrait of Virginia (1963) combines fragments of an old table, a discarded box, scraps of metal, and other elements to evoke Dwan. A crystal vase turned upside-down serves as her head. While the National Gallery owns several of Kienholz’s editioned works produced at Gemini G.E.L. in collaboration with Nancy Reddin Kienholz, Portrait of Virginia is the museum’s first unique assemblage, the medium for which the artist is best known.

Ross’s Collapsing Cube (1966) is the second sculpture by the artist to enter the collection, joining Hanging Islands (1966/2015) given by Dwan in 2016. The five Plexiglas elements are arranged side by side to narrate the "collapse" of a cube into progressively more complex polygons. The emblematic geometric form, the cube, becomes increasingly difficult to perceive.

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