James Rosenquist

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Many consider American maverick artist James Rosenquist to be the founder of the Pop Art Movement – much to the dismay of the artist. Ask Rosenquist about this tag and he will shrug it off calling it ‘unimportant’ and ‘impermanent’. Despite his dismay he is named in the same league as Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein and in 2011 Rosenquist was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Today he is regarded as one of the most well known visual artists in the world. A remarkable change for a person who initially started of his life painting billboards to make a living. The artist now resides in Florida and frequently turns in dramatic, bizarre and surreal large paintings which continue to set new horizons in the art world.

Born in 1933 in North Dakota, Rosenquist was the only child of Swedish immigrants who had a flair for flying. Many art historians believe that Rosenquist inherited his eccentricities from his parents though his flair was for art rather than flying. After winning a scholarship Rosenquist enrolled at the University of Minnesota to study art and then moved to New York to at the Art Students League. Side-by-side studying he started painting billboards around Times Square and the rest of New York to support himself and his studies. This experience of painting billboards proved to be a vital component of his future work – through this Rosenquist became an expert on scaling small images into larger ones and working with different materials to create larger wall paintings. It also taught him the ins and outs of commercial advertising when it came to art. By 1960 Rosenquist discontinued his work as a billboard artist and rented out a studio in Manhattan, this was followed by his first solo exhibition two years later. His first exhibition coincided with the rise of the Pop Art movement which was slowly gaining momentum – Rosenquists’s exhibition was the final seal and hence he was given the tag of the Founder of POP Art Movement which he went on to detest. His room scale painting F – 111 firmly put him on the world map as an artist to watch out for, and won him a lot of worldwide acclaim. F -111 depicts a commentary on militarism sprawled across the walls of the Castelli Gallery in New York. Rosenquist seemed uneasy with the attention suddenly given to him, for him art was a private matter and every artist had his/her own individuality.  He didn’t like comparison in general to any other artist, art was not a ‘silly’ matter to him and he was often quite hard on himself when he felt one of his works fell short of what his goals.

It comes as no surprise that the artist has won several accolades for his genius work; these include being appointed as the Director of the National Council on the Arts, being inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. James Rosenquist work can be found across the world in galleries like MoMA, Guggenheim, and the National Gallery of Art. Having worked actively for the past five decades, Rosenquist remains in demand and active as a painter as ever.

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