RIP: James Rosenquist Passes Away at the Age of 83

April 1st, 2017

James Rosenquist-Artists for Obama 2012-Gemini
James Rosenquist, via Art Observed

James Rosenquist, one of the foremost voices in the landscape of American Pop Art, has passed away at the age of 83 after a long illness.  Rosenquist’s work, known for its dizzying movements and explosive combinations of forms, marked him as a stand-out in the Pop discourse, balancing his interest in the language of advertising and marketing with a studied awareness of the art historical.  His innovative and often surreal juxtaposition of images pioneered new approaches to his medium during the late 1960’s, and would continue to evolve over the next several decades.

James Rosenquist, Coup d'Oeil - Speed of Light (2001), via Thaddaeus Ropac
James Rosenquist, Coup d’Oeil – Speed of Light (2001), via Thaddaeus Ropac

Rosenquist first found work in New York during the 1960’s as a sign painter, drafting immense billboards and images around the city that would slowly but surely creep into his work as an abstractionist during his time in his studio, and would gradually evolve into his signature forms, colossal images fusing images of celebrities, name-brand products and even close-ups of food.  “I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn. I got so I could paint a Schenley whiskey bottle in my sleep,” he wrote in his autobiography.

James Rosenquist, Reflector (1982), via Thaddaeus Ropac
James Rosenquist, Reflector (1982), via Thaddaeus Ropac

Rosenquist saw early success and recognition for his piece F-111, an 86-foot long series of panels depicting a massive American fighter jet broken up by images of spaghetti, tires, and other images echoing the ad-soaked landscape of mass media.  The work, on view at his first show at Leo Castelli, would springboard him to art world recognition, and would serve as the template for his further explorations of pop culture over the course of his career.

Rosenquist is survived by his wife, Mimi Thompson, his son John, his daughter Lily, and a grandson, Oscar.

James Rosenquist, Four New Clear Women (1982), via Thaddaeus Ropac
James Rosenquist, Four New Clear Women (1982), via Thaddaeus Ropac

— D. Creahan

Read more:
James Rosenquist, Pop Art Pioneer, Dies at 83 [NYT]
James Rosenquist, pop artist who painted the famous F-111, dies aged 83 [The Guardian]
In Remembrance of James Rosenquist: 1933 – 2017 [NY Mag]