- Rosenquist, James
born Nov. 29, 1933, Grand Forks, N.D., U.S.U.S. painter.His youthful employment as a billboard painter influenced the enlarged imagery and cool, impersonal style of painting that he developed by the early 1960s. In a typical painting, he juxtaposed imagery from pop culture, advertising, and other mass media using bright colours and a large canvas. This interest in popular culture has led many to define him as a precursor to Pop art. He has also created large works combining lithography, screenprinting, etching, and collage.
* * *▪ American artistborn Nov. 29, 1933, Grand Forks, N.D., U.S.one of the seminal figures of the Pop art movement, who took as his inspiration the subject and style of modern commercial culture. Through a complex layering of such motifs as Coca-Cola bottles, kitchen appliances, packaged foods, and sexy female models, Rosenquist's large canvases and prints embody and comment on the dizzying omnipresence of the consumer world.Rosenquist grew up in North Dakota and Minnesota, and at age 14 he won a scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design). He continued art studies at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. In 1955, having received a scholarship to the Art Students League, he moved to New York City. All the while, Rosenquist supported himself by working as a billboard painter, later using the leftover billboard paint to create small abstract paintings. It was not until 1960 that he abandoned Abstract Expressionism to directly engage the techniques and iconography of his commercial work.Rosenquist enjoyed the effect of using a billboard style of painting on smaller canvases, where the images became softly blurred and their literal quality was lost in the close-up orientation and the cropping of the image. He also played with shifts in scale and technique—employing, for example, grisaille and full colour—and juxtaposed a number of different motifs in a single canvas. The completed painting would be a disjunctive display of various pop images that presaged the postmodern strategy of pastiche. Rosenquist's array of signs sometimes suggested an overriding sexual or political theme. In the 1960s he made more overtly political work, epitomized by the monumental wraparound painting F-111 (1965), a canvas in 51 pieces that places American goods against the backdrop of a military fighter-bomber.Rosenquist also contributed to the renewal of printmaking in the United States when in 1965 he and a number of other young artists explored the process of lithography at Universal Limited Art Editions, in West Islip, Long Island, N.Y.Additional ReadingEvelyn Weiss, James Rosenquist: Gemälde-Räume-Graphik (1972), an exhibition catalogue; Judith Goldman, James Rosenquist (1985); Susan Brundage (ed.), James Rosenquist: The Big Paintings: Thiry Years, Leo Castelli (1994).
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