James Rosenquist

James Rosenquist (1933–2017)

Artist James Rosenquist has died, reports Ken Johnson of the New York Times. The man who helped launch the Pop art movement studied at the University of Minnesota and then painted billboards with ads for everything from films to sodas. After moving to New York and joining the Art Students League, Rosenquist became acquainted with artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (whom he remembered in the September 2008 issue of Artforum). In 1965, he staged a solo show at Leo Castelli, which featured his iconic F-111, a room-size painting that juxtaposes the eponymous American military plane with the slick imagery of advertising.

Rosenquist had major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1972; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 1968; and a seminal 2003 show, divided between the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, that later traveled to the Guggenheim in New York and then Bilbao. Reviewing the latter exhibition in Artforum’s October 2003 issue, art historian Michael Lobel noted that “the large scale of much of Rosenquist’s work was initially intended to offer the viewer some critical perspective on commercial imagery by calling attention to its numbing blankness,” and that “the hallmarks of Rosenquist’s mature style—the slick rendering, the vibrant Pop colors, the sustained attention to the surfaces of commodity objects––are brought together to imbue [his smaller] works with an uncanny psychological resonance.” Lobel also remarked on Rosenquist’s sly relationship with fashion: The artist commissioned a brown paper suit from Horst, a fashion designer, and “wore the outfit to gallery and museum openings and, on one occasion, appeared in it at a panel discussion on Pop art in Toronto, where he shared the stage with media pundit Marshall McLuhan.”

The Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, will feature Rosenquist’s work in a solo show later this year.