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James Rosenquist was an American artist and one of the protagonists in the pop art movement. He was a 2001 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Rosenquist was born on November 29, 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the only child of Louis and Ruth Rosenquist. His parents were amateur pilots of Swedish descent who moved from town to town to look for work, finally settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His mother, who was also a painter, encouraged her son to have an artistic interest. In junior high school, Rosenquist won a short-term scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art and subsequently studied painting at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. In 1955, at the age of 21, he moved to New York City on scholarship to study at the Art Students League.
After leaving school, Rosenquist took a series of odd jobs and then turned to sign painting. From 1957 to 1960, Rosenquist earned his living as a billboard painter. Rosenquist applied sign-painting techniques to the large-scale paintings he began creating in 1960. Like other pop artists, Rosenquist adapted the visual language of advertising and pop culture to the context of fine art. "I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn. "I got so I could paint a Schenley whiskey bottle in my sleep", he wrote in his 2009 autobiography, Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art. "Time" magazine stated that "his powerful graphic style and painted montages helped define the 1960s Pop Art movement." ("Milestones James Rosenquist," "Time," April 17, 2017, p. 15)
In 2003, art critic Peter Schjeldahl asked of Rosenquist's application of sign painting techniques to fine art thus: " as importing the method into art a bit of a cheap trick? So were Warhol’s photo silk-screening and Lichtenstein’s lining of panels from comic strips. The goal in all cases was to fuse painting aesthetics with the semiotics of media-drenched contemporary reality. The naked efficiency of anti-personal artmaking defines classic Pop. It’s as if someone were inviting you to inspect the fist with which he simultaneously punches you."
Rosenquist had his first two solo exhibitions at the Green Gallery in 1962 and 1963. He exhibited his painting F-111, a room-scale painting, at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1965, with which he achieved international acclaim.
But Rosenquist said the following about his involvement in the Pop Art movement: "They [art critics] called me a Pop artist because I used recognizable imagery. The critics like to group people together. I didn't meet Andy Warhol until 1964. I did not really know Andy or Roy Lichtenstein that well. We all emerged separately."
Rosenquist's paintings have been on display in the lobby of Key Tower in Cleveland, Ohio. His F-111 was displayed there for many years.
After his acclaim, Rosenquist produced large-scale commissions. This includes the three-painting suite The Swimmer in the Econo-mist (1997–1998) for Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany, and a painting that was planned for the ceiling of the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.
Rosenquist received numerous honors, including selection as "Art In America Young Talent USA" in 1963, appointment to a six-year term on the Board of the National Council of the Arts in 1978, and receiving the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1988. In 2002, the Fundación Cristóbal Gabarrón conferred upon him its annual international award for art, in recognition of his contributions to universal culture.
Beginning with his first early-career retrospectives in 1972 organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Rosenquist's work was the subject of several gallery and museum exhibitions, both in the United States and abroad. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized a full-career retrospective in 2003, which traveled internationally, and was organized by curators Walter Hopps and Sarah Bancroft.
His F-111, shown at The Jewish Museum in 1965, was mentioned in a chapter of Polaroids from the Dead by Douglas Coupland.
Rosenquist married twice and had two children. With his first wife, Mary Lou Adams, whom he married on June 5, 1960, he had one child: John. His first marriage ended in divorce. In 1976, a year after his divorce, he moved to Aripeka, Florida. His second wife was Mimi Thompson, whom he married on April 18, 1987, by whom he had one child: Lily.
On April 25, 2009, a fire swept through Hernando County, Florida, where Rosenquist had lived for 30 years, burning his house, studios, and warehouse. All of his paintings stored on his property were destroyed, including art for an upcoming show.
Rosenquist died at his home in New York City on March 31, 2017, after a long illness; he was 83 years old. His survivors include his wife, Thompson; one daughter, Lily; one son, John; and a grandson, Oscar.


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