James Rosenquist


Paris Marais
James Rosenquist
The Collages, 1960-2010
Saturday 10 September 2016 | 5 – 8pm
Exhibition: 11. September 2016 – 15. October 2016
2nd Floor
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is pleased to present a solo-exhibition of
American artist James Rosenquist at their Pantin gallery, as well as an
exhibition of his collages at the Marais gallery.
Paris Pantin
James Rosenquist
Four Decades, 1970-2010
Sunday, 11. September 2016 | 2 – 6 pm
Exhibition: 12. September 2016 – 7. January 2017
Born in 1933 and raised in the American Mid-West,
James Rosenquist led a career as a billboard painter before rising to
fame in the 1960s as a leading figure of the Pop Art movement alongside
contemporaries Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg.
Drawing on his experience as a billboard painter, Rosenquist plays on
the iconography of advertising and mass media, to create distinctive compositions
that explore the culture of modern capitalism. With striking immediacy, he
questions the make-up of his surroundings: on the one hand, the urban
environment shaped by the aesthetics of consumerism, on the other Florida’s
nature graced with tropical flora. Whether sequenced, prismatic or crosshatched,
each of Rosenquist’s ingenious compositions unfolds multiple narratives and plays
with space and dimension. The works touch upon subjects that range from aesthetics
to geo-politics, from technology to ecology as well as outer space and time travel.
This ambitiously scaled exhibition comprises around 33 works, mainly loaned
from the artist and private collections. The selection presents highlights
throughout four decades of the artist’s œuvre, starting from the 1970s.
A masterpiece of the exhibition is the 14 meter long and 5 meter high
Four New Clear Women (1982). First exhibited at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1983
and selected for the Art Unlimited section of Art Basel in June 2016, the painting
is a fine example of the artist’s use of monumental scale.
The works of the 80s and early 90s represent a key stage in the development
of the artist’s aesthetic, marked by his signature, crosshatched technique.
The process is exemplified in his floral works, such as the painting Sky Hole (1989)
from his Welcome to the Water Planet series. Along with his floral works, the artist developed a series of outer space paintings that recall hallucinatory dreams.
Rosenquist’s longstanding fascination with outer space is seen in his early 90s
Meteor Series – with the meteor symbolizing the inexplicable. With these works,
the artist pays tribute to famous painters such as Brancusi and Picasso, bridging the
gap between Modern and Contemporary art.
From the late 1990s to the first decade of the 21st century, the motif of time
takes centre stage in Rosenquist’s practice. The Speed of Light and The Hole
in the Centre of Time series explore different aspects of the theme.
Rosenquist is fascinated by Einstein’s theory of relativity, according to which
a stationary spectator sees an event differently from a spectator traveling at
the speed of light. Works from the Speed of Light series juxtapose objects
painted with trompe l’oeil precision and abstract, winding forms that recall
waves of energy. Time Stops the Face Continues (2008) and Speed of Light
Illustrated (2008) from The Hole in the Centre of Time series include motorized
mirrors allowing for the viewer and surrounding space to be part of the work.
Depending on the viewer’s position and speed, the paintings perpetually
transform. Rosenquist puts into question our perception of time and whether
we are in control of it or it controls us.
The starting point of most paintings is a collage of source material, a
composition of drawings and found images, often distorted with the aid of a
reflective metal cone and a photocopier. Gridding the colossal canvas, the artist
translates the image directly by hand onto the canvas – using no airbrush or
modern technology.
Simultaneously to the survey of Rosenquist’s paintings in Pantin, the gallery
will exhibit around 30 rarely seen collages in their Marais gallery, offering a
glimpse into the thought process behind a finished painting. The pendant
exhibition will emphasise how these intimate-scaled works are not only a step
in the working process, but are also works in their own right. Rosenquist writes:
“Collage is still a very contemporary medium, whether it is done with little bits of
paper or in the cinema. […] In collage there is a glint…or reflection of modern life.
For example, if you take a walk through midtown Manhattan and you see the back
of a girl’s legs and then you see out of the corner of your eye a taxi comes close to
hitting you. So – the legs, the car – you see parts of things and you rationalize
and identify danger by bits and pieces. It’s very quick. It’s about contemporary life.”
During the 1960s in New York, several notable exhibitions on collage and mixed
media art were staged, providing historical context for the direction Rosenquist’s
practice was taking. Curator Lawrence Alloway linked this new City Art of
“junk culture” to Dada and Futurism, also considered as urban art.
Alloway writes: “Junk culture is city art. It’s source is obsolescence, the
throwaway material of cities, as it collects in drawers, cupboards, attics, dustbins,
gutters, waste lots, and city dumps… Assemblages of such material come to
the spectator as bits of life, bits of the environment. The urban environment is
present, then, as the source of objects, whether transfigured or left alone.”
To Rosenquist, the city with its cars, highways and appetite for consumption
was an endless source of inspiration.
Today, Rosenquist is represented in public and private collections worldwide,
in the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Tate Modern in London and
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Guggenheim Museum organized
an important retrospective exhibition on the artist in 2003 that travelled
around the world.
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with essays by
Alain Cueff and Sarah Celeste Bancroft.

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