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Artists James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist Photo

James Rosenquist

American Painter

Movement: Pop Art

Born: November 29, 1933 - Grand Forks, North Dakota

Died: March 31, 2017 - New York City

James Rosenquist Timeline

Quotes

"I'm the one who gave steroids to Pop art."
James Rosenquist
"I feel lucky that I've been able to make a living from painting any idea that comes into my head."
James Rosenquist
"I'm interested in contemporary vision - the flicker of chrome, reflections, rapid associations, quick flashes of light. Bing! Bang!"
James Rosenquist
"The best thing about being an artist is the free clothing and getting to kiss pretty girls."
James Rosenquist
"When I started out, I wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel. But I didn't have the content."
James Rosenquist
"I stick the collages on the wall and, if I still like them after a month or two, I make a painting."
James Rosenquist
"I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn."
James Rosenquist

"Popular culture isn't a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blur between images creates a kind of motion in the mind."

James Rosenquist Signature

Synopsis

A seminal figure in the Pop art movement, James Rosenquist is best known for his colossal collage paintings of enigmatically juxtaposed fragmentary images borrowed largely from advertisements and mass media. Brought together and enlarged so as to cover entire gallery walls and overwhelm the viewer, these seemingly unrelated pictures of consumer products, weaponry, and celebrities hint at the artist's social, political, and cultural concerns. The billboard painter-turned-artist's early works are also considered emblematic of a burgeoning consumer culture in America during the 1960s. Six decades into his career, Rosenquist continues to create massive, provocative paintings, whose relevance hinges on their engagement with current economic, political, environmental, and scientific issues.

Key Ideas

The artist was among the first to directly address the persuasive, even deceptive, powers of advertising by applying the Surrealist practice of juxtaposing seemingly unrelated subjects to fragmented commercial images and ads in a manner that highlights the omnipresence of ads.
An advocate for his fellow artists, Rosenquist used his prominent artistic reputation to help lobby for federal protection of artists' rights during the 1970s and was soon thereafter appointed to the National Council on the Arts.
Because he successfully moved beyond his early fascination with popular culture and mass media to address new issues, such as the intersection of science and aesthetics, Rosenquist is credited with being one the few Pop artists whose later work continues to be relevant.

Biography

James Rosenquist Photo

Childhood

James Rosenquist, born in North Dakota, was the only child of amateur pilots Ruth and Louis Rosenquist. His father's search for work repairing planes meant that the family moved frequently, particularly during World War II, occasionally sending Rosenquist to stay with his grandfather on his farm near Mekinock, North Dakota. When the war concluded, the family settled in Minneapolis. By then, Rosenquist had lived in five different towns and attended seven different schools, all the while working during his summers and after school collecting newspapers, selling ice cream, picking seasonal produce at his grandfather's farm, and making deliveries for a local drug store.

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James Rosenquist Biography Continues

Important Art by James Rosenquist

The below artworks are the most important by James Rosenquist - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

President Elect (1960-61)
Artwork Images

President Elect (1960-61)

Artwork description & Analysis: Like many Pop artists, Rosenquist was fascinated by the popularization of political and cultural figures in mass media. In his billboard-style painting President Elect, the artist fuses Madison Avenue caliber advertising with political ambition by depicting John F. Kennedy's smiling face alongside consumer items - namely, a yellow Chevrolet and a slice of cake from an ad. Rosenquist created the collage using images cut from their original context that he adapted to fit a monumental scale in a photo-realistic style. As Rosenquist explains, "The face was from Kennedy's campaign poster. I was very interested at that time in people who advertised themselves. Why did they put up an advertisement of themselves? So that was his face. And his promise was half a Chevrolet and a piece of stale cake."

Considered the artist's breakthrough work, President Elect speaks to Rosenquist's fascination with subliminal persuasion through advertising. Rosenquist had a strong interest in the imagery of advertising, and wanted to translate its power into his artwork: "Painting is probably much more exciting than advertising," he said, "so why shouldn't it be done with that power and gusto, with that impact." This large-scale work exemplifies Rosenquist's technique of combining discrete images through techniques of blending, interlocking, and juxtaposition, as well as his skill at including political and social commentary using popular imagery. By placing Kennedy, the first presidential candidate to harness mass media to benefit his campaign, in the same frame as a sleek, powerful 1949 Chevy and dainty fingers caressing cake, the artist suggests the three subjects are similarly neatly packaged, marketed as desirable, and sold to the American people. At the same time, here Kennedy becomes a symbol of post-war American abundance.

Oil on masonite - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

F-111 (1964-65)
Artwork Images

F-111 (1964-65)

Artwork description & Analysis: The most ambitious of Rosenquist's collage paintings, F-111 stretches 86 feet long across 23 canvas panels and aluminum sections, encompassing a viewer's entire field of vision. The painting depicts a full-scale, 73 foot long F-111 fighter plane interrupted by assorted images derived from billboards and advertisements of the day rendered large and in clashing, day-glo colors. Among the fragmentary advertisements are a tire, a cake, air bubbles, spaghetti, a light bulb, and a young girl using a hair dryer that resembles a missile head. Disturbingly, there is also a beach umbrella juxtaposed onto an atomic explosion, making reference to a particular military euphemism used at the time: "nuclear umbrella."

Created during the Vietnam War, F-111 mixes fragments of consumer advertising (of the sort and scale that Rosenquist had become familiar with in his earlier career as a billboard painter) with military imagery, evoking what President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his departing 1961 address as "the military-industrial complex." Indeed, the F-111 bomber represented the latest technological innovation in warfare and cost millions to develop. In an interview, Rosenquist imagined a man who "has a contract from the company making the bomber, and he plans his third automobile and his fifth child because he is a technician and has work for the next couple of years....the prime force of this thing has been to keep people working, an economic tool; but behind it, this is a war machine." By offering a vision of this jet, as Rosenquist described it, "flying through the flak of consumer society to question the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, the media, and advertising," F-111 suggests complicity between this "war machine" and consumer culture.

F-111 was originally designed to cover all four walls of the Leo Castelli Gallery's main room in Manhattan. Its size permits no vacant wall space to offer visual relief from the bombardment of fragmentary images. As such, it exemplifies Rosenquist's contribution to Pop art: grand scale collage paintings that encompass an amalgamation of consumer imagery in a manner suggestive of socio-political commentary. After its purchase in 1967, F-111 toured major institutions in Europe and was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1978, significantly bolstering Rosenquist's artistic reputation abroad.

Oil on canvas with aluminum, twenty-three sections - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Marilyn Monroe, I (1962)
Artwork Images

Marilyn Monroe, I (1962)

Artwork description & Analysis: James Rosenquist painted this inverted and fragmented portrait of Marilyn Monroe just following her unexpected death in 1962. Like fellow Pop artist Andy Warhol, Rosenquist transformed Marilyn's iconic image. But whereas Warhol used well-known photographs of the celebrity sex symbol repetitiously, Rosenquist chose to present her in a manner that denied immediate recognition, while preserving her coquettishness. He achieved this by breaking apart her eyes, lips, and hand, reassembling the pieces into a seemingly random configuration, and boldly overlaying letters that are themselves fragments of her name.

Below the lettering appears a fragment of the word "Coca-Cola" in the soda's trademark script. Through this association with branding, mass-production, and popular culture, the artist draws attention not so much to Monroe as a person as to how she was packaged in the mass media and marketed based on her sex appeal, here synecdochically referred to through images of her smiling mouth and attractive blue eyes artistically repackaged. Rosenquist's painting of Marilyn Monroe is one of countless others painted by his contemporaries, including Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, that attest to the increasing power of mass media and its impact on art production during the 1960s.

Oil and spray enamel on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

More James Rosenquist Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
James Rosenquist
Interactive chart with James Rosenquist's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Richard HamiltonRichard Hamilton
Eduardo PaolozziEduardo Paolozzi
Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí
Rene MagritteRene Magritte

Personal Contacts

Robert IndianaRobert Indiana
Ellsworth KellyEllsworth Kelly

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Pop ArtPop Art
Contemporary ArtContemporary Art

Influences on Artist
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist
Years Worked: 1950s - Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Richard PrinceRichard Prince
Marilyn MinterMarilyn Minter

Personal Contacts

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Neo Pop ArtNeo Pop Art

Useful Resources on James Rosenquist

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

James Rosenquist: A Retrospective

By Sarah Bancroft

Rosenquist: Painting Below Zero Recomended resource

By James Rosenquist and David Dalton

artworks

James Rosenquist Time Dust Complete Graphics 1962-1992

By Constance Glenn

James Rosenquist: Pop Art, Politics and History in the 1960s

By Michael Lobel

More Interesting Books about James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist and Erro discuss a long friendship forged in Pop art

By Randy Kennedy
The New York Times
March 17, 2016

In Conversation with James Rosenquist

By Mary Anne Staniszewski
Bomb Magazine
Fall, 1987

Q&A with James Rosenquist

By Courtney Jordan
Smithsonian Magazine
March 2007

King of Pop Recomended resource

By Mark Stevens
New York Magazine
October 27, 2003

More Interesting Articles about James Rosenquist
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sandy McCain
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