ProvenanceBernard Jacobson Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Houston
Exhibition1993 Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California
2013 Celestial, McClain Gallery, Houston, Texas
The photograph of twenty-five-year-old James Rosenquist standing on a narrow catwalk painting a billboard high above Manhattan’s bustling 47th Ave. is a pean of appreciation for the earnest, hard-working men of that time. It was taken in 1958, and though it is not likely he imagined that this laborious and dangerous work would be perfect training for achieving the fame of the greatest Pop artists of his time — Warhol, Lichtenstein, Wesselmann, and Oldenburg — as he blended the flesh tones of an upper arm and added highlights for the muscle and bone structure, he was painting fragmentary portions of the greater picture and perfecting a canny ability to enlarge and resize imagery, working with abstraction on a scale and in a manner unmatched by any artist of his time.
When aligned with his characteristically crisp, bold, painterly handling, formal elements and imagery untethered to norms of context and relationship, the result can have a transformative effect. Television or the Cat’s Cradle Supports Electronic Picture is a powerful illustration of that mélange of abilities as well as an artist’s intentions to generate free associations of thought and contemplation. Here, Rosenquist invites us to explore our free-wheeling associations of three disparate elements set against a cosmic ether: tropical flora (passion flowers), a human presence deconstructed as sharded scissor-cut facial components, and between the two, a rectangular shaped diamond-meshed lattice. But there is also playful irony here. Given Rosenquist’s environmental concerns during the late 1980s and ‘90s, the thin, taut strands of a cat’s cradle suggest the folly of our egocentric bearing. Its points of contact suggest the fundamental connections between everything and serve to belie the notion that humankind has little or no deleterious effect on the world in which we live.
James Rosenquist, 1988 Photo by Russ Blaise
James Rosenquist painting a billboard on 47th Street and Broadway, New York City, 1958
The legends of Pop: Tom Wesselman , Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg in Andy Warhol’s Loft, New York City, 1964, Photograph by Fred W. Mcdarrah
Rosenquist, kicking a heel in his Florida studio, circa 2000
- The graph by Art Market Research shows that in the last 20 years, Rosenquist paintings have increased at an 8.3% annual rate of return
- Still, the Rosenquist market is relatively undervalued when compared to his Pop art contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein
- Rosenquist paintings from the 1970s and ‘80s have room to reach full price realization. As collectors and museums continue to acquire pieces from the 1960s, works from the 1980s will likely increase in value.