Eight months after James Rosenquist's death in March, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne is showing the American pop art icon's key works. Some of the paintings have never been displayed in Germany.
James Rosenquist started out as a billboard painter, poised on scaffolds high above New York's Times Square and across the city. In the glitzy world of consumerism, he created huge ads for the latest Hollywood films showing in two New York movie theaters, as well as advertisements for cars and candy stores.
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"I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn," he wrote in his 2009 autobiography.
Rosenquist started off by creating small-scale models before blowing the paintings up to gigantic proportions — and he kept that penchant for XXL size artwork throughout his life.
He would often cut objects from ads in magazines — Life magazine was a favorite — and reassemble them, transferring the new combination to a large canvas.
Unlike his pop art colleagues, Rosenquist never squirted paint on canvas, nor did he use screens or strainers. He painted broad strokes on canvas with a brush, creating a strong dynamic of shape and color. He was interested in the peripheral view, in details and shapes that blow open a person's range of vision, where close-up detail becomes blurred.
Consumer objects, a fighter plane: Rosenquist began painting 'F 111' in the midst of the Vietnam War
Tribute to an icon
Rosenquist was born in North Dakota to a family that never had much money. Issues of survival and existential concerns, combined with political worries, are a common theme throughout all his work.
Key artworks are on display now in Cologne at the Museum Ludwig retrospective entitled "Painting as Immersion," which runs from November 18 to March 4, 2018.
Rosenquist, the museum writes on its website, authorized the concept and the selection of the works: "This will be the first major museum exhibition as an homage to the artist."
The exhibition offers a wide-ranging overview over his work from the museum's own collection, loans from the Rosenquist estate, and from museums in the US, France and Sweden.
The show includes a veritable icon of the pop era: the impressive installation F-111.
The huge painting was created in 1964-65, during one of the most politically turbulent decades in recent US history.
Other displays document how the artist actually worked. Through painstaking research, museum staff found the magazine cake mix ad Rosenquist used as an element in the "President Elect" painting from the early 1960s (No. 5 in the gallery, above). Every one of the still life paintings is a comment on mass culture, as well as a political statement.
Click on the above gallery for an idea of what awaits visitors to the Museum Ludwig exhibition.