Sunday, 14 February 2016

The artist totally revealed

An incredibly thorough overview of Rosenquist's career, least up until 2003 when the book published. The three essays at the front of the book place him in the context of American pop art and the development of his unique style of painting over the decades. It's the reproduced paintings that made the book come alive for me, 271 of them which includes four fold-out pages. It's worth saying that Rosenquist's paintings are huge, for example his famous 'F-111' is eighty-six feet wide but when reduced to book size the work has a precision worthy of the Photorealist school.

I've always like the mix of ad art and packaging with its flamboyant colors and typography that he blends in with background abstract shapes and patterns. Frequently a painting evolves over several feet with one theme on the left morphing into one or more before the eye finally gets to the right-hand edge, 'The swimmer in the econ-mist' (1997-8) is a good example of this. During the eighties Rosenquist developed a crosshatch style: cutting ad art, frequently a model's face, into long pointed strips and overlapping them on a floral background. These must be mesmerising to see with their dazzling color and shapes, especially if they are several feet wide. Nicely throughout the book's painting pages there are six short illustrated essays explaining the various themes that appear in his work.

A fascinating chapter is Source collages. Thirty pages with reproductions of the accurate roughs Rosenquist creates on what is probably stiff cardboard or wood. The rough for 'The swimmer in the econ-mist' is shown and you can see the lines drawn across it to create grid that is also on the final canvas so each part of the image is in the correct place.

The back pages have the usual bibliography, index of paintings and exhibitions and an interesting dateline biography of Rosenquist with 181 captioned mono photos. I read the book originally, since then I've looked through it several times over the years, each visit is a rewarding experience looking at these amazing paintings.

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