Biography of James Rosenquist
Drawing inspiration from pop culture and advertising visuals, the pioneering American painter James Rosenquist is renowned for his vibrantly colored and fragmented works. In the early 1960s Rosenquist began extricating images from pop culture and the commercial world of advertising to insert them into his large-scale paintings. The result was a fascinating portrait of contemporary life and its burgeoning acceptance of consumerism.
Born in 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he witnessed the changing landscape of rural America, James Rosenquist won a scholarship to the Minneapolis Art Institute at the age of 14 before attending the University of Minnesota. Indeed, much of Rosenquist's subject matter stems from the three years he spent working as a billboard painter between 1957-60. Required to paint the enormous billboards in Times Square, he would also cunningly siphon off any unused paint to take back to his studio. Rosenquist's first solo show at the Green Gallery in New York in 1962 precipitated a productive period for the artist who was then commissioned to paint a huge mural for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair.
One of James Rosenquist's greatest achievements was in turning photographs and advertising imagery from magazines into compelling kaleidoscopic narratives by a simple shift of their scale and context. This is epitomized by his painting F-111, 1964/65 which depicts the controversial and overpriced F-111 fighter plane interspersed with various consumer products, stretching over 26 meters in length. The piece was a cultural landmark and was even referenced in Douglas Copeland's book of essays, Postcards from the Dead, 1996. Although not overtly political, Rosenquist was briefly arrested for participating in an anti-Vietnam rally in 1972.
James Rosenquist has continued to work on a grand scale and in 2006 exhibited his monumental work Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1998 in Art Basel's prestigious Unlimited sector in Switzerland. In addition to his painting Rosenquist has been a prolific maker of limited edition prints and multiples including Time Dust, 1992, believed to be the largest print in the world. The artist had his first retrospective in 1972 at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as one at the Guggenheim Museum in 2003, both in New York. He is featured in the most prominent collections around the world.