WOW! – Work of the Week – James Rosenquist – 1, 2, 3 Outside



James Rosenquist
1, 2, 3 Outside
1971
6 color lithograph with embossing and debossing
40 1/2 x 31 in.
Edition of 70
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered


About the work:

“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 is best known for his colossal collage paintings of enigmatically juxtaposed fragmentary images. These images, brought together and enlarged overwhelm the viewer,  through their sheer scale which makes them difficult to discern at first glance. They are mostly fragments of enlarged, photo-realistic images done in the advertising style of the emergence of consumer culture in America during the 1960’s. This is no accident, Rosenquist started out his career as a billboard painter, and was among this first of the classic pop-artists to directly address the persuasive powers of advertising, highlighting the omnipresence of ads.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Rosenquist’s 1, 2, 3 Outside

1, 2, 3 Outside was originally painted in 1963 in a manner that denies each of the three panels immediate recognition due to the scale of each fragmented image, so enlarged that they are each removed from their original context. This is where Rosenquist’s fascination with subliminal persuasion through advertising becomes evident. Each image is artistically packaged based on defining characteristics and incorporates as much visual imagery as possible onto the picture plane. Together, however, they form a bombardment of information without any kind of visual relief.

The imagery is on such a monumental scale that it gives the impression that it is coming straight at the viewer and suggests a strong socio-economic commentary, implying that the work itself is a starting point for deeper reflection. “I wanted the space to be more important than the imagery,” James Rosenquist said. “I wanted to use images as tools.”

Rosenquist used generic imagery, no brand names, and created a new kind of picture. He described the effect: “People can remember their childhood, but events from four or five years ago are in a never-never land. That was the imagery I was concerned with—things that were a little bit familiar but not things you feel nostalgic about. Hot dogs and typewriters—generic things people sort of recognize.” Rosenquist reminds us to observe more intently and become more self-reflective, taking our time with the experience of looking.

As such, 1, 2, 3 Outside exemplifies Rosenquist’s contribution to Pop art: grand scale, fragmented composition that encompass an amalgamation of consumer imagery and evokes visual memory flashes of consciousness.

WOW! – Work of the Week – James Rosenquist – Sky Hole, from Welcome to the Water Planet





James Rosenquist
Sky Hole, from Welcome to the Water Planet
1989
Pressed Paper Pulp in colors wth lithographic collage on Rives BFK and TGL handmade paper
106 x 65 in.
Edition of 56
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered

About the work:
“I’m the one who gave steroids to Pop art”
James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist’s larger than life brand of Pop is not the literal Pop Art of Warhol, Lichtenstein or Indiana. Rosenquist’s work, seemingly irrational owed a debt to Surrealism through large-scale, mysterious pictorial combinations. As his works evolved, he continued to employ a juxtaposition of elements and materials, creating complex compositions as a means of exploring design and narrative. His work from the 1980s through to the end of his career is still on steroids – vibrantly colorful, abstract compositions that explore perceptions of time and space, in addition to our environment.
In the mid-1970s, Rosenquist moved his studio from Manhattan to Aripeka, Florida where his aesthetic was affected by the flora and fauna of his new surroundings. His interests shifted from the culture of consumerism to an exploration of humankind’s place in the environment. The lusher paintings of the ’80s suit their time with their candied colors. Rosenquist, in short, is one of the few former pop artists whose work continues unabatedly to have something to say. However, unlike most political art, Rosenquist’s work seems non-polemical at first, and that is the source of its power.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is from the series Welcome to the Water Planet – Sky Hole.
The series came to be after Ken Tyler of Tyler Graphics Ltd (TGL) invited Rosenquist to work at his new purpose-built workshop at Mount Kisco in upstate New York. Rosenquist, who started his career as a billboard artist, was always drawn to larger than life size compositions, accepted the offer when Tyler promised him that he would provide handmade paper as big as the artist could imagine. For the project, Tyler devised a huge deckle box to make hand-made papers about 60 by 120 inches, including a giant printing press for lithography and etching measuring 120 by 240 inches.
Tyler had a deep seeded interest in hand-made papers and started experimenting with Pulp Paper projects in the 70’s, working on projects with Rauschenberg, Kelly and Hockney, among others, and by the time work started with Rosenquist, he had brought paper works to new heights in terms of scale, color and texture.
This blended perfectly with James Rosenquist’s desire to develop his idea of an image of slow-heating popcorn tied together with his concerns about the state of planet Earth – the only water planet known in existence in the universe at the time. Rosenquist included imagery that evoked the colorful and sensual riches of the earth and brilliant flora from Florida, set within a wondrous star-lit universe. ‘We all live on the water planet’, the artist stated in an interview. Rosenquist’s series of paper works were intended to act both as a celebration and a warning to what might happen to our planet.
The first idea that came to form for Sky Hole was birds of paradise approaching the water planet. The image was deconstructed into its component parts, made with curved lines of cross-hatching that would then be printed in color lithography. These lithographic elements form a collage that is laid on the brilliantly colored paper pulp sheet. The separate colors were made by filling different moulds with paper pulp placed on top of the large sheets of handmade paper. The method, was one of trial and error.
At the initial stages of the project, the method of using metal moulds, or ‘cookie cutters’, resulted in problems with translating Rosenquist’s designs into paper form due to inconsistencies of the pulp paper. But, always seeking to experiment and innovate, Tyler was able to perfect the system while Rosenquist developed the templates for each piece. For the large areas of graded color, impossible to achieve using mould shapes, Tyler proposed the use of a spray gun, used for applying stucco to walls in houses, which could spray the gradations of color across the pulp on which the lithographic elements were collaged. The technique was successful and resulted in a look of apparent spontaneity and effortlessness, contrary to the hours of preparation and a technique born of experimentation.
The collaboration between the artist and master printmaker created revolutionary works, Rosenquist, himself noting that ‘The wonderful thing about paper pulp is the color. If you take a magnifying glass, you’ll see a little fuzz rising like smoke off the surface of this handmade paper – like doing giant watercolors and letting this watercolor seep together at the perfect moment …’

WOW – Work Of the Week – James Rosenquist “Marilyn”

Marilyn stock

James Rosenquist
Marilyn
1974
Lithograph
41 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.
Edition of 75

Pencil signed, titled, dated and numbered

About This Work:

With the recent passing of James Rosenquist, Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art is dedicating this week’s Work Of the Week to the icon and pioneer of Pop Art. 

James Rosenquist started his career as a sign painter of commercial billboards, which is often reflected in his large-scale paintings through a flat, uniform, and graphic style. Much of his inspiration was drawn from the advent of large-scale advertising and mass media. The bright hues and precise renderings convey the new, clean, and sterile environments so often used in advertising. However, while on the surface, his works appear to suggest the American Dream of the 1950’s and 1960’s, an underlining message addresses the potential issues American society will confront, and be confronted with, during this emergence of the thriving economy of the postwar.  

One of Mr. Rosenquist’s most famous painting, F-111 is an 86-foot-long commentary on the duality of Americana in 1965 at the height of the Vietnam War. 23 panels juxtaposed a mushroom cloud, a smiling girl, a bomber jet, a beach umbrella, among others. Debuting at the Leo Castelli Gallery in NYC, the piece caused a sensation in the art world. 

Another well-known work is Marilyn Monroe I. Measuring 7’ 9” x 6’ ¼”, this large-scale oil and spray enamel on canvas is a tribute to the sex symbol, created shortly after her sudden death in 1962. Through this work, Rosenquist took upon himself to share with his viewers a more sophisticated message – one that consisted of more than the usual glamourous image of Marilyn Monroe so many artists have utilized. The imagery we are so accustomed to associate with the movie star was transformed, and Rosenquist chose to present her in a manner that denied the immediate recognition, while preserving her coquettishness. One must observe the piece very closely to understand who it is the viewer is confronted with. Monroe’s face is divided into six panes removing her instant recognition, however, Rosenquist demonstrates a unique ability to transmit her spirit. All of Monroe’s features, her eyes, lips and hand, have been fragmented and placed together in an incoherent manner, with bold lettering painted on top in the same disjointed configuration. 

Clearly visible, but also in a fragmented manner, is the Coca-Cola logo, but on closer inspection, overlaying letters of Marilyn Monroe’s name also become apparent. James Rosenquist, being very familiar with the force of branding, mass-production and popular culture, was able to draw attention to the idea that Marilyn Monroe was as important to commercialism and industry as any every day products such as Coca-Cola, drawing upon the message beyond her as a person, but as Marilyn Monroe packaged in the mass media and marketed based on her sex appeal. 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 1960’s.

The Marilyn lithograph became available in 1974 and was published by Petersburg Press Inc. in an edition of 75. It is housed in the MoMA and Tate, among many other prominent collections. 

Rosenquist was born in 1933 and passed away in New York City on March 31st 2017 after an illustrious career, which cemented him as one of the most important and influential American artists of our time. 

 

Work Of the Week – James Rosenquist “Firepole”

expo-67-mural

JAMES ROSENQUIST
Expo ’67 Mural – Firepole
1967
Multicolor lithograph from 6 stones
34 x 18 3/4 in.
Edition of 41

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Born on November 29, 1933 in Grand Forks, ND, James Rosenquist attended the University of Minnesota, before earning a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York in 1955.
Rosenquist started as a commercial sign painter. This career ended when he moved into a studio in Lower Manhattan, where he gradually befriended other upcoming artists of the era such as Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Barnett Newman throughout the 1960’s.

James Rosenquist is one of the key figures in America’s Pop Art movement. Rosenquist takes fragmented, oddly disproportionate images and combines and overlaps them in his works to create visual stories, in the most abstract and provocative ways.
Through a complex layering of such motifs as Coca-Cola bottles, kitchen appliances, packaged foods, trousered men legs, women’s lipsticked mouths and manicured hands, Rosenquist’s large canvases and prints embody and comment on the omnipresence of the consumer driven world. 

Rosenquist’s paintings and prints are often made in unusual proportions and giant dimensions. For example, one of his prints, called Time Dust (1992), is thought to be the largest print in the world, measuring approximately 7 x 35 feet.
This week’s Work Of the Week, Firepole, challenges once again the boundaries of scale and tradition.

In 1967, Rosenquist painted Firepole, a monumental mural commissioned for the American Pavilion at the Montreal World Exposition. This mural featured gargantuan blue-uniformed legs wrapped around a fireman’s pole. 
The dimension of the mural was humongous – and then subsequently reiterated in smaller scale in this lithograph.

Firepole refers to Rosenquist’s idea “that it was unnecessary for U.S. to police the world or be the fireman of it“. Indeed, Rosenquist has always been very much involved with political and social issues of that time, especially criticizing the Vietnam war and the political positions of the US government in terms of global relationships and conflicts.

Today Rosenquist is considered one of the greatest American artists still alive.
His seemingly unrelated paintings 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 artworks, whose relevance hinges on their engagement with current economic, political, environmental, and scientific issues, with a transition away from cultural references into more abstract subject matter. The artist lives and works in Aripeka, FL.