Robert Rauschenberg - 'Scanning' (1963)

1. Robert Rauschenberg, Scanning, 1963; oil and silkscreen ink on canvas, 55 3/4 x 73 in. (141.61 x 185.42 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Fractional and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY; photo: Ben Blackwell

1. Robert Rauschenberg, Scanning, 1963; oil and silkscreen ink on canvas, 55 3/4 x 73 in. (141.61 x 185.42 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Fractional and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY; photo: Ben Blackwell

Scanning (1963) belongs to the extended series of silkscreen paintings (numbering about eighty in all) that Robert Rauschenberg executed between fall 1962 and late spring 1964. This series is devoted almost exclusively to photographic images, representing a departure from the artist’s immediately preceding Combines (1953–64), which incorporate all manner of found objects and materials—taxidermy animals, articles of clothing, automobile tires, working clocks and electric fans—along with photographs and images derived from mass-media sources. In the silkscreen paintings, commercially produced screens were used to transfer to canvas images derived from contemporary periodicals, such as LIFE and Newsweek, as well as Rauschenberg’s own photographs. On canvas, these images were joined with other silkscreened images and hand-painted marks. Like photographic negatives, each image could be reproduced multiple times. Andy Warhol (1928–1987) also used silkscreening around this time, creating repetitive, grid-like compositions that were often impersonal and designed to be executed by others.1 Rauschenberg, however, made the mechanical process malleable and highly variable, leaving it open to improvisation and the touch of his hand (via the squeegee used to spread ink through the screens).
All of the above information is from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website, with the quotation from an extended July 2013 essay by Roni Feinstein. For the full essay, see here.
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