Working in wildly diverse subjects, materials and techniques, Robert Rauschenberg is best known for his early “Combine” paintings, which merge elements of both sculpture and painting. Rauschenberg’s integration of visual media was enormously influential for the trajectory of postwar American art, yet his commitment to collaboration extended beyond his artistic practice, working with performers, printmakers, engineers as well as other artists and writers from around the world.
Works on paper were important to Rauschenberg’s work, from collages made on Italian shirt boards, to his exploration with lithography at ULAE (Universal Limited Art Editions) in 1962 and his later collaborations with Gemini G.E.L. in 1967. The lithograph, Hot Shot from 1983, was created at ULAE, combining found photographs of an astronaut, a space shuttle, and street signage proclaiming phrases such as, “Come on Columbia” and “Shuttlemania,” pointing to the public excitement over the 1983 launch of the space shuttle Columbia. The title may refer to the captain of the 1983 Columbia mission, John Young, a career astronaut who was commonly referred to as a “hotshot Navy test pilot with an aeronautical degree,” and whose participation on the Columbia mission made him the first astronaut to leave the Earth’s orbit five times.