James Rosenquist, born in 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, was one of the most important American artists of the postwar era. In 1955 Rosenquist left the Midwest for New York City, where he received his artistic training at the Art Students League amidst the popularity of Abstract Expressionism and artists such as Willem de Kooning. His artistic education led to a brief, but significant, career as a billboard painter, where he spent his days perched on scaffolding high above Times Square.
In the 1960s Rosenquist transformed the visual language of commercial painting onto his canvases, filling his large-scale pictures with fragmented advertising imagery in bright Day-Glo colors. Rosenquist’s paintings of this era, such as the iconic F-111 (1965) in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, are pictorial critiques of contemporary American culture and he is considered a pioneer of the Pop Art movement along with fellow artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Rosenquist’s paintings since the 1970’s have retained his trademark aesthetic and focus primarily on geo-political, existential and environmental themes.
The work of James Rosenquist is represented in major private and public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tate Modern in London. Aside from his many gallery and museum exhibitions, James Rosenquist has had more than fifteen retrospectives, with two at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2003-2004 the Guggenheim Museum organized a retrospective that traveled to Houston, New York, Bilbao and Wolfsburg. His 2009 autobiography Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art is a best-seller.
Photo by Russ Blaise, 1988.