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James Rosenquist
About the Artist

James Rosenquist was born on November 29, 1933, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. His family moved frequently in his youth until they finally settled in Minneapolis in the late 1940s. Rosenquist was interested in art when he was young and received a scholarship when he was 15 to attend classes at the Minneapolis School of Art. In 1952, he entered the University of Minnesota to study painting. To help support himself, Rosenquist painted outdoor advertising on billboards and grain silos for a local company. In 1955, Rosenquist moved to New York, he again took up painting enormous billboards in Times Square to supplement his income.

During this time he also met and befriended many artists, including Claes Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, Robert Rauschneberg, and Jasper Johns, who were to become known for their work as Pop Artists. In the late 1950s Rosenquist began to apply the techniques he used in his commercial work to his art. His large paintings combined jarring juxtapositions of images from advertisements and the media with autobiographical and political themes. He said, "I'm amazed and excited and fascinated about the way things are thrust at us...we are attacked by radio and television and visual such a speed and with such a force that painting now seem(s) very old fashioned...why shouldn't it be done with that power and gusto [of advertising], with that impact?"

In 1963, Rosenquist was commissioned by architect Philip Johnson to paint a mural for a building at the New York World's Fair. He was selected by the art magazine, Art in America, as the "Young Talent Painter of 1963." Political, especially anti-war, imagery became prominent in Rosenquist's paintings after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

In 1972, Rosenquist was arrested as a Vietnam War protester in Washington, D.C. He has continued to work for artists' rights and political issues. Now, more than 30 years since his career began, Rosenquist continues to work on major commissions with great energy. Large-scale works, often with personal and political themes, still are important to him. In later years, his works have incorporated more high-tech and cosmic allusions, with themes of time, anti-violence, and death.

Vocabulary Terms

autobiographical--Telling the story of your own life.

juxtaposition--To place two different things side by side.

Pop art--An art movement associated with the 1960s in the United States in which artists incorporated imagery and/or media from popular culture such as advertisements, mass produced objects, movies, and comics.

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