new-york

James Rosenquist

Whitney Museum of American Art

It is customary to think of James Rosenquist as the most surrealistic of the Pop artists, but if thats so, I think the surrealism is a veneer on something more drastic: his inability to make the surreal (unconscious, metaphoric, secretly essential) connection between the blatantly given, metonymically disparate elements in his paintings. Yes, there are the usual sexual tricks, what with a decades-long hang-up on castration, visible as early as Vestigial Appendage, 1962. Appendages dangle in Fahrenheit 1982, 1982, where phallic fountain pen nib and female fingernail become one, in a minor masterpiece of sensual surplus. But the real thing in Rosenquist’s work is the sensuality of technology, including the female, that highly crafted doll (Rosenquist never got over his billboard concept of glamour)—and that doesn’t work. In Horse Blinders, 1968–69, and Area Code, 1970, the telephone cable

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