Erased Erased de Kooning Drawing

The title refers to the Robert Rauschenberg work in which he erased a Willem de Kooning drawing over the space of a month, using around 40 erasers in an act of “additive subtraction”, leaving an “empty” image, which showed traces of its former state: a palimpsest. As digital erasure is so much more visually complete, a blank digital image will not show such a history. The pure absence of visual information could represent the beginning point of an act of creation, or the end point of an act of destruction.


De Kooning told Rauschenberg that he would make it as difficult as possible for him, selecting a drawing which included charcoal, oil paint, pencil and crayon. In the same spirit, a 1-pixel diameter Eraser tool was selected in Photoshop and an image of the Rauschenberg artwork was erased over five sessions and a total of nine hours and thirty-three minutes (a total of 973 “Eraser” actions). Whilst the final visual image is devoid of information, the story of the erasure is encoded in the metadata in the History Log file. This 104-page text serves as a digital palimpsest; an epic poem which begs a more general question about how truth has retreated from our retinal environment.


Geraint Edwards, Erased Erased de Kooning Drawing, erased digital image, 2017

When pushed as to what his Erased de Kooning Drawing was, Rauschenberg denied that it was an act of the youngster challenging the authority of the established master, instead calling it a “celebration”. He similarly rejected claims that the work was an act of destruction or negation, stating instead that it was “poetry”.

[1] Geraint Edwards, Erased Erased de Kooning Drawing (Detail), Photoshop log file, 2017
[2] Geraint Edwards, Erased Erased de Kooning Drawing, erased digital image, 2017
[3] Geraint Edwards, Erased Erased de Kooning Drawing (Detail), Photoshop log file, 2017