Two significant artifacts or two-lane blacktop events that came to mind immediately after posting our piece, Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip”: Plotting a motorized city, paper route style the other day was the similarity between Jack Kerouac’s (1951) 120-foot-long rant, Robert Rauschenberg’s (1953) 23-foot-long tire track, and Ed Ruscha’s (1966) 25-foot-long survey.
First a brief history of the Kerouac manuscript for On the Road. Kerouac produced the single-spaced text without commas or paragraph breaks on one massive continuous scroll in only three weeks. The 120-foot-long player-piano-like (Jelly) roll (Morton) was created by taping semi-translucent paper together and feeding it through his “That’s not writing, it’s typing” 1928 Underwood Portable typewriter. But oh what a typist he was; according to legend (or Allen Ginsberg), Kerouac was clocked at speeds approaching 110-120 words per minute on the straightaways and perhaps those speeds can be attributed to the “nearness” of Kerouac to the subject matter.
“His subject was himself and his method was to write as spontaneously as possible…What resulted he would later transcribe for forwarding to his publisher, but never revise, in principle he regarded revision as a form of lying.”
~The New York Times
“I’m just reading what I wrote all night. There are better things coming than what I wrote all night. Straight from the mind to the voice”.
~An excerpt from On The Road, Jack Kerouac Reads On the Road, Rykodisc (1999)
Straight from the mind to the voice. This desire or act of accepting /embracing things for what they are, flaws, flies in the ointment, warts and all, is a reoccurring aspect to Robert Rauschenberg’s work as well. Rauschenberg is perhaps best known for his late 1950s, early 1960s Combines. But for me Rauschenberg’s most significant work besides Erased de Kooning (1953), is his 1953 collaboration with his ‘printer and press’ John Cage entitled “Automobile Tire Print. This 23-foot-long “print” was executed with black house paint, twenty sheets of typewriter paper, and a Model A Ford one weekend on a semi-deserted street in in Lower Manhattan.
Unfortunately it rained. Fortunately it rained. Thankfully it rained. Just by chance it rained and everything was salvaged. Or as Rauschenberg explains in this wonderful 1999 interview at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: ‘And I just poured the paint on the… it rained… and the paste didn’t really hold up too well… yeah I salvaged it all, but anyway it didn’t have to rain… and so I pored it in front and I told John to really… I poured it in front and I told John to drive just as straight as he could you know, be careful, keep going straight you know and John was fascinated by the fact we were doing this and he did a good job.’ Yes a lovely effort indeed.
Unrolling the On The Road scroll:
“On the Road Again with Jack Kerouac and Robert Frank”
Indianapolis Museum of Art – IMA
Jack Kerouac’s Famous Scroll, ‘On the Road’ Again
National Public Radio: All Things Considered
by Andrea Shea
July 5, 2007
See also: “Tire,” by Roy Lichtenstein, which arrived in 1962, nine years after the Rauschenberg/Cage tire track print.