Expo ’67 Mural – Firepole
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.