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James Rosenquist: A Retrospective

On October 17, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York opened its first large James Rosenquist retrospective. With around 200 works, the exhibition offers the first comprehensive view of the artist's works. Deutsche Bank is not only sponsoring the exhibition; it has also lent a number of important exponents to the show.

"I'm interested in contemporary vision – the flicker of chrome, reflections, rapid associations, quick flashes of light. Bing-bang! I don't do anecdotes. I accumulate experiences." James Rosenquist

James Rosenquist, born 1933 in the Midwest, is considered to be one of the most important representatives of American Pop Art. He began his career as a sign painter on Times Square in New York. He already developed his own form of "New Realism" in the early sixties by dissecting motifs from ads and poster advertising, recombining them, and transferring them onto large-scale canvases. Yet Rosenquist's works never restricted themselves to transforming everyday subjects into art. His world of images is also accompanied by critical commentary.

In 1965, Rosenquist made his first environmental painting, F-111, following the invasion of American troops in Vietnam. It combines the fighter-bomber of the same name, a smiling girl sitting beneath a hairdryer, and the atomic fireball of a nuclear bomb in a vision of American culture that demonstrated the close kinship between euphoria and catastrophe to a shocked public. "Mr. Rosenquist, notwithstanding the enormous size of many of his paintings, is a Haiku master of the American psyche," wrote Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times following the exhibition opening.

James Rosenquist
Study for "The Swimmer in the Econo-mist", 1997
&DeutscheBank Collection, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Even though Rosenquist's oeuvre has already been documented in countless large exhibitions, James Rosenquist: A Retrospective is the first comprehensive presentation since 1972 that includes every technique the artist employed. Rosenquist applied a kind of artificial fog to his works to de-materialize the upper and lower edges of their pictorial space; he used hanging sheets of painted plastic to carry his collage technique into the third dimension. This technique enabled him to create puzzling and visionary pictorial compositions in which narrative and abstract structures become superimposed. Along with his paintings, which include President Elect (1960-61/1964), F-111 (1964-65) and Industrial Cottage (1977), the exhibition will also be showing a large number of his collages for the first time, which he made as preliminary studies. The collages provide insight into the development of his large-scale works; at the same time, they elucidate Rosenquist's painting technique.

James Rosenquist
Study for "The Swimmer in the Econo-mist", 1997
Sammlung Deutsche Bank, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

Although he developed an unmistakably American voice, Rosenquist's work comments upon popular culture, history, and politics from a global perspective. This is most clearly demonstrated by a loan from the Deutsche Bank Collection that can be seen in the New York exhibition: The Swimmer in the Econo-mist, created in 1998 for the exhibition program conceived by Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the first work commissioned to an artist by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin.

The largest of Rosenquist's paintings to date, and over 160 feet long in all, not only depicts German Reunification in an explosion of color, but draws the viewer into a whirlpool of shifting motifs and perspectives: it's a "diary of the stormy mood of our time," as Rosenquist explained in an interview with Robert Rosenblum. The wild, unbridled energy of this painting not only portrays the political, but also the "economical tumult we've been experiencing over the past few years. Up and down, up and down, up and down. The whole world's in an uproar, because the nuclear power roles no longer apply. There's a lot of optimism, but on the other hand there's pessimism, too. So it's all pretty lively," says James Rosenquist about his painting, which will reassume his place in the lobby of Winchester House, Deutsche Bank's head office in London, following the end of the exhibition.

Along with The Swimmer in the Econo-mist, the New York retrospective is also showing a series of preliminary drawings that document the work's development, as well as a number of other works by Rosenquist from the Deutsche Bank Collection.


James Rosenquist
"The Swimmer in the Econo-mist", 1997
Sammlung Deutsche Bank, ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

James Rosenquist: A Retrospective will be shown from 10/17/2003 through 1/25/2004 in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Thereafter, the exhibition will travel to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.