Robert Rauschenberg had a voracious appetite for material culture. A collage of wood, newspaper, comics, sundry clothes, and old lace, Untitled is saturated with a coat of red paint. The surface is open to drips and chance combinations, not with an expressive intent as in abstract expressionism but with a field of unexpected juxtapositions and perceptual shifts. Untitled was an important step in Rauschenberg’s development as an artist; his use of everyday objects continued to evolve, eventually resulting in a hybrid of painting and sculpture now known as Combine paintings.
When Eli and Edythe Broad acquired Rauschenberg’s Untitled in 1983, they traded Vincent van Gogh’s drawing Cabanes à Saintes-Maries, 1888, which they had cherished for a long time. For the Broads, Untitled represents a turning point in their lives as collectors, a symbol of their increasing commitment to the works of contemporary artists.