Robert Rauschenberg's Arcanum series, created in 1981 explores the intersection of technology and art. Each print, from Arcanum I through Arcanum XIII, showcases Rauschenberg’s innovative use of mixed media to create complex visual narratives that reflect on the contemporary human experience.

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Meaning & Analysis

Robert Rauschenberg's Arcanum series represents a significant exploration within his artistic journey, noted for its integration of cutting-edge printing techniques and a rich array of materials. The series title Arcanum originates from the Latin word arcanus, meaning secret. Alchemists used this term to refer to the extensive properties of earth's materials, while mystics applied it to denote the symbolic scenes depicted in Tarot cards. The series comprises thirteen prints, each corresponding to a different concept or theme that Rauschenberg found pertinent to the technological and cultural shifts of the early 1980s.

Each artwork in the series is characterised by Rauschenberg’s signature style, layering images and textures to create multifaceted compositions. This approach not only allows for a visually dense experience but also invites deeper reflection on the part of the viewer. The Arcanum series utilises solvent transfer techniques and lithography, blending photographic images with abstract patterns and bold text elements, reflecting Rauschenberg’s interest in challenging the boundaries between different media.

The Arcanum series is particularly noteworthy for its commentary on the acceleration of technological advancement and its implications for society. Rauschenberg's artworks serve as visual meditations on how these changes affect perception, memory, and identity. Each print, while a standalone piece, contributes to a larger narrative arc that questions and celebrates the role of innovation in human progress.

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