The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton’s Massive Rauschenberg

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In 1968, Milton Glaser, Marian Javits (the wife of Jacob Javits) and Clay Felker founded Broadside, a fine arts printing company focused on producing (very) large-format prints by significant artists at affordable prices by utilizing commercial printing presses. The business was based at the Milton mothership, 207 E. 32nd St., home to Push Pin Studios and New York Magazine. Of course, Glaser designed the letterhead.

Previously, Glaser had served on the Arts and Letters committee for Javits’ successful 1968 reelection campaign for the Senate, and Push Pin Studios created campaign buttons (designed by Jason McWhorter and art directed by Glaser). Glaser and Felker were very busy in 1968; they launched New York Magazine the same year.

Broadside ultimately released only two projects, one by Richard Lindner and another by Robert Rauschenberg; here’s Glaser describing the prints in a May 1, 2002, book review of Rauschenberg’s Posters by Marc Gundel in PRINT:

Lindner gave us a painting emblematic of his work—a triptych of three costumed women in brilliant color—that we rendered as a silkscreen print. We found a billboard printer to produce Rauschenberg’s piece, an 18’-long work entitled Autobiography. Rauschenberg, unlike Lindner, was very interested in the printing process and very particular about the effect he wanted to achieve; we spent many hours (in the age before computers) considering how to produce the poster in the way that he envisioned it.

Autobiography was a three-panel print that included a life-size X-ray of the artist, a spiral-shaped diary of important events in Rauschenberg’s life photographed through a distortion lens camera, and a photocollage of Rauschenberg skating in one of his dance works. Broadside produced a brochure (complete with several vaguely impractical hanging suggestions) to promote the piece, which was sold for $150. (The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also has a copy of a letter that accompanied the brochure.)

It was a deal even then, though good luck figuring out where to hang it. Autobiography was shown at the Whitney in 1968; Hilton Kramer, who reviewed the work in TheNew York Times, was not a fan. Broadside ultimately failed as a business proposition even though Pop Art was flourishing at the time and printmaking was resurgent. I haven’t been able to find anything more about the Lindner prints, but surely the scale of the Rauschenberg print (4.5’ x 17’) made it a tough sell to the very audience Broadside was targeting. Perhaps Autobiography was better suited to museums all along.