James Rosenquist 1933-2017
I’m the one who gave steroids to Pop art. – James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist’s work combines Pop and Surrealist images. His background as a sign painter gave him a unique perspective and set of skills about both the art and consumer culture of the world around him.
He studied art at the University of Minnesota and moved to New York in 1955 to study at the Art Students League. To earn a living in New York, Rosenquist joined the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. He paint billboards around Times Square and Fifth Avenue. In his 2009 autobiography, Rosenquist wrote, “I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn. I got so I could paint a Schenley whiskey bottle in my sleep.”
By the 1960s, his work garnered him international acclaim. One of his most recognizable designs is the logo he was commissioned to design for Illy, the Italian coffee company.
In 1971, Rosenquist was invited to travel to Florida participate in the newly created Graphicstudio, a collaborative art initiative at University of South Florida’s College of Fine Arts. His participation at the school led Rosenquist to create a home and studio in Aripeka, Florida. His participation at the school, as well as the community, led to a commission to paint two murals at Florida’s state capitol building in Tallahassee and a position on the Tampa Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees.
Rosenquist’s masterful design and mastery of printmaking, created high demand for his artwork. In 1984, he was commissioned to create a painting for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building New York, to celebrate the restaurant’s twenty-fifth anniversary. The resulting mural, Flowers, Fish and Females, is seven-and-one-half-by-twenty-four-feet and is now part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Rosenquist continued the theme, using slanted patterned panels over images of flowers and female faces, to create large prints. Flowers and Females, available at Surovek Gallery, is a large, 60 1/8 x 70 ¾ inch monoprint/lithograph that exemplifies the power of Rosenquist’s later works.
Rosenquist’s work is currently part of the Surrealism in American Art exhibit at the Centre de la Vieille Charite in Marseille, France, which will run through September 26, 2021.
His works are part of the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the
Moderna Museet in Stockholm and many other fine museums and galleries around the world.
Mary Ann Caws. James Rosenquist: His American Life. The Brooklyn Rail. December 2018-January 2019.