A Collector’s Guide to James Rosenquist
Five things you should know about the American Pop art legend, annotated by WCC Curator Lindsay Hamm.
Select works currently on view in THIS IS NOW at West Chelsea Contemporary. Annotations from our curator are provided in italics.
James Rosenquist (November 29, 1933 –March 31, 2017) is considered today to be one of the founding fathers of the American Pop art movement. Alongside icons like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Wesselmann and Oldenburg, Rosenquist was one of the first to champion the incorporation of commercial advertising elements into his work. His vibrant compositions incorporate a wide range of 1960s sourced media, from print advertisements to photographs, and popular periodicals. His style has been described as “visual poetry”, and he utilizes a wide range of techniques from painting, to collage, to printmaking.
Rosenquist’s work is included in major public and private collections, and has been featured at institutions including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and other international institutions.
Watch the video or read on below to discover five lesser known facts about the artist and his work compiled WCC curator Lindsay Hamm.
- Rosenquist got his start as a sign painter.
Born in Maryland in 1933, Rosenquist began his career in Minneapolis where he worked painting billboards for General Outdoor Advertising. His start as a sign painter later became integral to his technique as an artist; he is to this day lauded for his ability to scale his drawings into gargantuan printed compositions, as he did with Sister Shrieks (pictured below). This work is currently on view at West Chelsea Contemporary in our new show THIS IS NOW.
Sister Shrieks is a gorgeous example of Rosenquist drawing upon his background as a billboard painter, and his interest in the commercial world. It is a monoprint with lithograph collage printed in colors. I love the colors of this piece; the vibrant orange, the greens popping through. It’s framed sheet at 48w x 80h inches, so it’s really big! It has a monumental quality when you step in front of it that’s really striking. It is created in 1987 and it’s signed in pencil, dated, titled and numbered. The images of the women hidden within the painting are almost something you would see in commercials at the time.
2. Sister Shrieks is one of a series of five prints Rosenquist created in 1987 called Secrets in Carnation.
This print is an edition of thirty-nine, and in this print series there were also three artist proofs. Sister Shrieks itself was part of the Secrets in Carnations print series that Rosenquist created in 1987 when he was working at the University of Tampa in Florida. Within this series, there were five printed images. All five prints had one specific thing in common; the incorporation of this inter-splicing, or as some will call it “cross-hatching” between the plants (Look closely and you’ll see flowers coming through), and, in between, inter-spliced, are images of women. That’s what’s really cool.
3. Rosenquist has a three million dollar auction record.
The artist is blue-chip represented, which means he is represented by one of the four mega-galleries in the world. He has a three million dollar auction record. His work is only appreciating in value, making any of his pieces a great addition to any collection.
His work is has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, The Menil Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Denver Art Museum, Tretiakov Gallery, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, and other international institutions.
4. Rosenquist worked with world-renowned printer Kenneth Tyler to create gargantuan works on custom made paper.
Rosenquist drew on his experience as a billboard artist to upscale his small sketches into enormous prints that burst with color from wall to wall.
He often utilized a cross hatching technique to layer his collages with brightly colored pulp sheets, which Tyler made custom for him at enormous sizes. The handmade paper was integral to the creation of the lithographs, along with metal moulds that Tyler would cut according to Rosenquist’s design, and fill with separate colors to form elements of the collages.
In 1989 he painted a mural that was commissioned in Atlanta by a private company, that was piece above: Time Door, Time D’Or. Both pieces were worked on with the same printer– Kenneth Tyler. This one was done two years later. This one was an edition of 28 with 12 artist proofs.
5. Rosenquist’s work often comments directly on cultural or political movements he lived through.
As a person Rosenquist was frequently involved in political or cultural movements, and his work is often tied to an issue of his time. Paintings bursting with the flora of Florida are more than the beauty that meets the eye; Rosenquist was actively concerned with ecological issues by 1980. Other issues that fascinated the artist include space travel, militarism, the influence of advertising and man’s relationship with technology.
You can see James Rosenquist’s Sister Shriek (1987) and Time Door Time D’Or (1989) on view in THIS IS NOW at West Chelsea Contemporary. We are open to the public through February 28th.
Words of the week:
A printing process based on the fact that grease and water don’t mix. The image is applied to a grained surface (traditionally stone but now usually aluminium) using a greasy medium: such as a special greasy ink – called tusche, crayon, pencils, lacquer, or synthetic materials. Photochemical or transfer processes can also be used. A solution of gum arabic and nitric acid is then applied over the surface, producing water-receptive non-printing areas and grease-receptive image areas. The printing surface is kept wet, so that a roller charged with oil-based ink can be rolled over the surface, and ink will only stick to the grease-receptive image area. Paper is then placed against the surface and the plate is run through a press. (Source: Tate Modern)
Hatching, also called cross-hatching, is a technique used by draftsmen, engravers, and other artists who use mediums that do not allow blending (e.g., pen and ink) to indicate shading, modeling, and light and shade. It consists of filling in the appropriate areas with a mass of parallel lines, of varying length, the intensity of effect being achieved by the number of lines used and their proximity to one another (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)
Now showing at
West Chelsea Contemporary:
ABOUT THIS IS NOW
Curated from a collection of over 700 works that span the past six decades, This is Now showcases the breadth of West Chelsea Contemporary’s offerings. Featuring over forty artists across a range of disciplines, the 7,800 square foot space has been transformed into a vibrant world of color, light, and reflection.
Artists such as Russell Young and The Connor Brothers mine images from Old Hollywood and blur the lines between high and low culture. Legendary American pop artists Jim Dine, James Rosenquist, and Donald Sultan abstract symbols from the everyday. While represented artists like Hunt Slonem, Ash Almonte, and Gil Bruvel embrace vibrant palettes and complex textures to capture the natural world. Iconic works by Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst use stark visual contrast when exploring the transient nature of life. By borrowing the iconography and lore of pop culture and the everyday as the material for their artwork, these artists are able to reflect the world we live in and comment on larger themes like consumerism, globalization, and the shared human experience.
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