James Rosenquist: A Retrospective

James Rosenquist: A Retrospective



Dates: October 17,2003–January 25, 2004
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street), New York City


Overview:
First Comprehensive Survey of the Artist's Work in all Media Since 1972 Featuring Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Prints, and Source Collages


NEW YORK, October 10, 2003—The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, the first comprehensive survey of the artist's work in all media in more than thirty years. The exhibition will feature nearly 200 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and source collages gathered from museums and private collections in the U.S., Europe, and from the collection of the artist. Organized by the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the exhibition premiered in Houston, where it was on view simultaneously at The Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts (May 16–August 17, 2003). James Rosenquist: A Retrospective remains on view in New York through January 25, 2004. It will travel to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in the spring of 2004.


"We celebrate Rosenquist's achievement across the spectrum of more than forty years of artistic production," said Thomas Krens, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. "The scope of this exhibition provides an historical context for the artist's early Pop works and demonstrates his continued importance to the present day."


This exhibition is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, Hugo Boss, and Delta Air Lines.


Education programs are sponsored by EDS.


Additional support is provided by illycaffè and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Since the late 1950s, James Rosenquist has been creating an exceptional and consistently intriguing body of work. A leader in the American Pop art movement in the 1960s with contemporaries Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol, Rosenquist drew on the iconography of advertising and the mass media to conjure a sense of contemporary life and the political tenor of the times. Originally from the Midwest and now working in New York and Florida, Rosenquist has developed a distinctly American voice, yet his work comments upon popular culture from a global perspective. From his early days as a billboard painter to his recent use of abstract painting techniques, Rosenquist has demonstrated his interest in and mastery of texture, color, line, and shape that continues to dazzle audiences and influence younger generations of artists.


Spanning more than four decades, the scope of James Rosenquist: A Retrospective will provide both an historical context for Rosenquist's early Pop works as well as elucidate his continued importance in the art of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. The exhibition will begin with some of the earliest abstractions that Rosenquist made after his arrival in New York in 1955, when Abstract Expressionism was the dominant artistic movement. It will show the artist's stylistic evolution in the 1960s with the eye-catching paintings that led to Rosenquist's association with Pop art. These early paintings—much influenced by his previous experience as a commercial billboard painter—were the first to bring Rosenquist public acclaim. The show will continue to explore Rosenquist's career to the present day, bringing together several of the artist's murals of epic subjects and monumental proportions, in addition to room installations including his iconic antiwar statement F-111 (1964–65) and The Swimmer in the Econo-mist (1997–98).


Gallery space will be devoted to an in-depth look at Rosenquist's works on paper, which relate closely to his paintings. A large number of the artist's collages, used in preparation for his canvases and artworks in their own right, will be shown for the first time and will lend new insight into his working process. By considering his art as a whole, audiences can begin to understand the complexity of Rosenquist's aesthetic and ideological concerns.


James Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1933. While in junior high school, he was awarded a short-term scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art and subsequently studied painting at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. During the summers, he worked as a billboard painter—learning a good deal about figurative and commercial painting techniques from fellow workers—and in 1955 he moved to New York to study at the Art Students League. He left the Art Students League after one year and in 1957 returned to life as a commercial artist, painting billboards in Times Square and across the city. By 1960, Rosenquist had stopped painting commercial advertisements and rented a small studio space in Lower Manhattan. Working against the prevailing tide of Abstract Expressionism, Rosenquist soon developed his own brand of New Realism—a style soon to be called Pop art. Like other Pop artists, Rosenquist adapted the visual language of advertising and pop culture to the context of fine art. By fragmenting and recombining images of disproportionate size and scale, he has depicted even the most familiar objects (a U-Haul trailer, canned spaghetti, flowers, and baby dolls) in more abstract and provocative ways.


Rosenquist achieved international acclaim in 1965 with the large-scale painting F-111. Named after a fighter-bomber plane then in development for the Vietnam War, F-111 was painted in response to that war and the military-industrial complex that fostered America's booming mid-century economy. Recognized as a modern-day history painting, it was considered an antiwar statement approaching the significance and power of Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937).


Over the past four decades, James Rosenquist's work has reflected the world in which we live. Through his unique brand of imagery Rosenquist has addressed modern issues and current events, registered antiwar statements, and voiced concern over the social, political, economic, and environmental fate of the planet. For much of his career, Rosenquist has also expressed in his work a fascination with the cosmos, technology, and scientific theory.


Rosenquist has received numerous honors, including being selected Art in America's Young Talent Painter in 1963, appointed to a six-year term on the Board of the National Council of the Arts in 1978, named recipient of the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1988, and awarded the Chevalier l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in 1992. In 2002, the Fundación Cristóbal Gabarrón conferred upon him its annual international award for art in recognition of his great contributions to universal culture. Since his early career retrospectives in 1972 (organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne), he has been the subject of several gallery and museum exhibitions, both in the U.S. and abroad. He continues to produce large-scale commissions, including the recent three-painting suite The Swimmer in the Econo-mist (1997–98) commissioned by Deutsche Guggenheim, and a painting planned for the ceiling of the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. His work has continued to develop in exciting ways and is an ongoing influence on younger generations of artists.


Installation:
The exhibition is installed chronologically on the ramps of the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda, highlighting Rosenquist's achievement in painting and sculpture. The more intimate galleries of Annex Level 2 and Thannhauser 4 focus on his work as a draftsman, collagist, and printmaker. Annex Level 2 also features Rosenquist's masterful painting F-111. The Guggenheim has re-created the original installation of this work as it appeared in the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1965. Annex Level 5 features a thematic selection of work from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s dealing with technology, space, and the cosmos. James Rosenquist: A Retrospective encompasses the full breadth of this artist's remarkable achievement, while capturing his practice of working simultaneously in diverse media. Several works—including F-111 (1964–65) and the rare early sculpture Tumbleweed (1963–66)—are featured only at the New York venue of this traveling exhibition.


Organization:
This exhibition has been curated by Walter Hopps and Sarah Bancroft. Hopps holds the position of Adjunct Senior Curator of Twentieth Century Art at both The Menil Collection and the Guggenheim Museum. Sarah Bancroft is Assistant Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


Catalogue:
A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Guggenheim Museum and distributed in the United States by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers accompanies the exhibition. In addition to extensive new and archival photography, and nearly 300 of the artist's most significant works, the catalogue includes an overview of the artist's career by Walter Hopps; an essay on the artist's collages by Julia Blaut, former Assistant Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; an essay on the artist's prints by Ruth Fine, Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art; and a personal account by Eugene Epstein, a former researcher at The Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, of an astronomer's view of the artist's work relating to scientific phenomena. Texts by Sarah Bancroft, Chris Balsiger, and Michelle Harewood explore selected themes recurring in the artist's work. The catalogue also includes a definitive bibliography, exhibition history, and illustrated chronology compiled by Sarah Bancroft. The catalogue is available for $45 (softcover) and $65 (hardcover), and through the museum's Web site, www.guggenheim.org.


#989
October 10, 2003

For Press Information:
Betsy Ennis / Jennifer Russo, Public Affairs
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Telephone: (212) 423-3840
Telefax: (212) 966-0924
E-mail: publicaffairs@guggenheim.org


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