Published in A Fine Regard: Essays in Honor of Kirk Varnedoe. Edited by Patricia G. Berman and Gertje R. Utley. Ashgate, 2008.
With its boundless space, painterly exuberance, and improvisational nature, Ace served as Rauschenberg’s farewell to the Combine mode. A five-panel work and the most monumental of all the Combines, Ace features a number of compositional motifs and graphic and painterly effects that were without precedent in the artist’s work. Yet, in the copious literature surrounding Rauschenberg’s oeuvre, Ace has never been the subject of investigation.
This essay suggests that Ace presents a veiled representation of a religious theme, specifically the Crucifixion, and that it was executed in response to Jasper Johns’ five-panel painting Diver, also of 1962.