ProvenanceRichard L. Feigen & Co., New York
The Peter B. Lewis Collection
Sotheby's, Contemporary Art Day Auction, November 2014, lot 232
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Florida
ExhibitionNew York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Houston, The Menil Collection; Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts; Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, October 2003 - October 2004, cat. no. 108, p. 213, illustrated in color
LiteratureOliver Stone, Director, Wall Street, USA, 1987, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
James Rosenquist is one of the most prominent Pop artists. His large-scale canvases feature collaged images culled from advertising and commercial culture. Trained as a billboard painter, Rosenquist used this experience to create massive canvases that themselves look like the advertisements we encounter in everyday life. The canvases gleam in their glossiness and fast-paced nature, the juxtaposition of disparate images hinting at larger socio-political observations.
Despite Pop art emerging from midcentury America, the movement reached a new level of fame during the 1980s when this painting, Samba School, was created. An emboldened American society looked to flex new priorities of consumerism and corporate interest with bravado. This was a perfect intersection for Pop artists to examine the complexities involved.
It is not unusual then that this painting featured in a defining movie of the period – “Wall Street”. As the movie points out of American culture of the era, “… greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” This material exuberance is not unconnected with a re-energized Pop art and other movements of the decade.
Samba School is a complex painting in which incongruent images are literally fragmented and interwoven into each other, forcing the viewer to confront the aesthetic quality of the canvas and the conceptual relationship between disjointed pictures. A dense but rewarding piece, the painting reflects the more fragmentary nature of later Rosenquist paintings and his continual examination, making his later works as important as his earlier pieces. Although static, the angular disintegration and rejoining gives us the impression of images flashing at high speed as if channel surfing, driving down a highway of billboards, or even jumping from website to website. It is no coincidence that Andy Warhol called his friend James Rosenquist his favorite artist.
Still from “Wall Street”, the 1987 film directed by Oliver Stone in which Rosenquist’s “Samba School” appeared.
James Rosenquist in Times Square, 1958.
James Rosenquist in studio, 1964.
James Rosenquist with his painting “Brazil”, 2005.