No, these aren’t blank canvases – they’re Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings!
Rauschenberg’s aim was to create a painting that looked untouched by human hands, as though it had simply arrived in the world fully formed and absolutely pure. In 1961, composer John Cage famously referred to the White Paintings as airports for lights, shadows, and particles, establishing an enduring understanding of the series as receptive surfaces that respond to the world around them. Building on this reading, Rauschenberg once referred to the works as clocks, saying that if one were sensitive enough to the subtle changes on their surfaces one could tell what time it was and what the weather was like outside. Ultimately, the power of the White Paintings lies in the shifts in attention they require from the viewer, asking us to slow down, watch closely over time, and inspect their mute painted surfaces for subtle shifts in color, light, and texture.
Image: Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951; Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY