Friday, September 14, 2012

Jill Krementz covers James Rosenquist at Acquavella

"I feel lucky that I've been able to make a living from painting any idea that comes into my head. When I make those paintings and put them out on that roadside stand, all I hope is that they'll surprise people enough to slow down, take a look and say, 'What in heck is that Rosenquist up
to now!'"
— James Rosenquist
James Rosenquist
Multiverse You Are, I Am

Acquavella Galleries
18 East 79th Street (Between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
September 10-October 13, 2012

James Rosenquist was born in 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota and trained at the Art Students League. He is one of the most celebrated artists of our time. Known for his leadership in the American Pop Art movement, Rosenquist began his career as a billboard painter in New York City. This experience inspired him to work on a large scale.

With bright Day-Glo colors and a sleek aesthetic, Rosenquist's early work juxtaposed fragmented images derived from advertising to create enigmatic, thought-provoking narratives that foster a dialogue about consumer culture.

The artist's latest exhibition at Acquavella Galleries features eleven paintings — two of which are monumental in scale — that reflect his continued interest in time and outer space.

The opening night party kicked off the fall art season. On hand to celebrate this legendary, warm-hearted man were his daughter Lily Rosenquist along wiith Caroline Kennedy, Ed Schlossberg, and their daughter Rose; Agnes Gund; sculptor Tom Otterness and his wife, experimental film-maker Coleen Fitzgibbon; artists Ray Smith, Sheila Berger, Adrienne bon Haes, and Christo; and Whitney Director Adam Weinberg.
Maeve Connell and Mary Pell Lea, assistants at Acquavella. The artist graciously signing catalogues for opening night guests.

Michael Findlay, Director of Acquavella.

"Rosenquist's work has always reflected his fascination with the chaos. In these bold new paintings his typical fragmented images of reality give way to brilliantly colored abstractions based on observed phenomena in the multiverse.

"Much of the artist's childhood was spent on the nighttime prairie outside his home in North Dakota during the Depression, watching the Northern lights, star showers and solar winds that had significant impact on his visual vocabulary."

Mr. Findlay's book, The Value of Art, was published in May.
A highlight of the exhibition is Geometry of Fire (2011), which the artist created in response to his Florida home, studio, and personal collection being destroyed by a brush fire in August 2009.

"I did this painting after my house and studio burned down," explained Rosenquist. "After his house burned down, Jean Cocteau was asked what he would have saved and he replied, 'The memory of the fire.'

There's no rhyme or reason for what happens when your house or studio burns down. There's no geometry in fire, there is only wildness and no logic."

There are eleven paintings in the exhibition and this one measuring 11x25 feet is the largest.
Left: Sand of the Cosmic Desert in Every Direction, 2012, 86 x 72 inches

Right: Parallel Worlds, 2012, 63 1/2 x 52 i/2 inches
Super Mega Universe
2012, 76 1/2 x 81 inches
Meta Universe, 2012
65 x 56 inches
Alternative Universe, 2012
63x54 1/2 inches
Alternative Realities, 2012
48 inches diameter
Alternative Time Lines, 2012
58x46 inches
Multiverse You Are, I Am, 2012
11 x 10 feet

This painting is on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
I would urge you to purchase the catalogue ($10). There is an informative essay by Judith Goldman accompanied by examples of Rosenquist's earlier works. Also included: a foreward by William Acquavella and beautifully reproduced plates of each of the eleven paintings hanging on the walls.

Agnes Gund, who owns seven Rosenquist paintings. Aggie, as she is known, arrived early so she would be able to scoot off to the Andy Warhol opening at the Met.
James Rosenquist and Aggie Gund.
Don Saff. "I've done a lot of work with Jim and with Rauschenberg. I'm now an advisor for Rauschenberg's estate and I was a curator at the Guggenheim for a number of years." Adrienne bon Haes, a textile artist, and Marvin Ross Friedman, a collector from Coral Gables.

Sisters Patty and Susan Brundage, longtime directors at Leo Castelli Gallery; Patty for 21 years (1976-1997) and Susan for 25 (1972-1997). The siblings currently work for the Art Dealers Association of America where Patty is Director of Administration and Susan the Director of the Appraisal Department.

"Leo started showing Jim in the early '60s," recalled Patty. "In the 1980s, Leo had a space at 142 Greene Street. It was there that Jim showed the first of the four 46 foot wide paintings, entitled Star Thief."

"The paintings came in panels and the doors of the gallery had to be taken off."
A page from the Acquavella catalogue showing Rosenquist 1965 installation at Castelli. The artist and the art dealer were good friends.

According to Lennie Bennett, reviewing Rosenquist's memoir Painting Below Zero for The New York Times: "It was this monumental F-111 (1964-65) that put him on the map. It stretches 86 feet and was first shown wrapped around the walls of the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, with larger-than-life images of angel food cake, tinned spaghetti, a Firestone tire, a beach umbrella, lightbulbs, a hair dryer and a radiant little girl — all overlaid with hallucinatory realism onto ominous images of an atomic mushroom cloud and a depth charge — luridly splashed along the side of a F-111 fighter plane with the words U.S. AIR FORCE printed on its fuselage.

"He was dubbed a pop artist, like Warhol. Rosenquist makes clear that while he liked and respected Warhol, their artistic aims were very different. Warhol practiced a reductive art in which a popular commodity or image was an isolated, ironic symbol. Rosenquist created new contexts for his collage of images as social commentaries."
Timothy Baum, an expert on Dada, Surrealism, and 20th Century Art, is the author of Man Ray's Paris Portraits, 1921-39.

A friend of Rosenquist's for 50 years, Baum was knocked out by the show. "It's so great at his age he still paints like a kid."
Bob Yucikas, an alumunus of Eastern New Mexico University, is from Washington, D.C.

His abstract paintings of near-geometric shapes are based in landscape.

Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg.

Rosenquist's work is included in the permanent collection of the Whitney and in the collections of most major museums including MoMA, The Met, Centre Pompidou, Deutsche Guggenheim (Berlin), The Detroit Institute of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Guggenheim Bilbao, Iwaki City Art Museum (Japan), The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), and The Tate Modern (London).
Another page from the Acquavella catalogue: Star Thief is owned by Museum Ludwig in Cologne.
In 1993 the artist's 40-year-career was celebrated with a full scale retrospective at The Guggenheim Museum.
Rosenquist in front of his painting The Stowaway Peers Out at The Speed of Light, 2000.

October 23, 2003.
Jim Rosenquist, Sarah Bancroft (who co-curated the show), and my husband Kurt Vonnegut at the Guggenheim for the press preview of Rosenquist's retrospective.

Kurt and I loved the exhibition.
Accompanying the retrospective at the Guggenheim: a 444 page catalogue written by Walter Hopps and Sarah Bancroft.
The frontispiece of our catalogue.
Our beautiful Rosenquist, Pyramid Between Two Dry Lakes, 1978, inscribed to both of us.
Lily Rosenquist is the daughter of Jim Rosenquist and his wife, Mimi Thompson. Mimi was not at the Gallery as she was waiting to celebrate with him at the after-party down on Chambers Street.

Lily, 22, is a graduate of RISD and works for the painter Noah Davis in Los Angeles. "I mostly help him with sculptural installations. But I do a little bit of everything."
Artist Ed Schlossberg greets Jim with a warm embrace. Their friendship goes back to the days when "we were both making lithographs at the Tanya Grossman Studio."

Schlossberg, founder and principal of ESI Design, recently had a show at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.

Caroline Kennedy and Ed Schlossberg.
Rose, Caroline and Ed Schlossberg with Jim Rosenquist. Rose is 24 and a student in NYU's ITP program (telecommunications).
The Schlossbergs get their catalogue signed by Rosenquist.
Alexander Peers writes about art for New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times. Christo and Adam Weinberg.
Vladimir Yavachev, Christo's nephew from Bulgaria. Jonathan Henery, Jean-Claude's nephew from New York. The two men run Christo's business. "We're the whole staff."

Jacques Smith, 23, is an artist who designs clothes. He will be showing his designs at Ray Smith's Studio in at 261 Bond Street in Brooklyn on Saturday, 6pm-midnight.

"I will be presenting my collection with two other young designers and will be hosting an auction so that guests can bid on their favorite pieces as well as special mystery boxes filled with creations and inspirations of the artists involved."
"It's a swatch watch and I can color in the straps just like you can change them on a real one. I got it because I live in the present." The tattooo cost him $120.
Mariana Smith, 24, is a performance artist who graduated from RISD in 2010. Ray Smith is one of the foremost Mexican/American artists with his work in most major collections including the Whitney, MoMA, and the Brooklyn Museum.

He is the father of Mariana Smith and obviously they share the same fashion genes. Check out those stylish drums on his shirt.

Sculptor Tom Otterness with his wife, experimental film-maker Coleen Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgibbon and Otterness are two of the many people involved in the famed Colab group (Collaborative Projects Inc.) from the late 1970s. Other members included Jane Dickson, Walter Robinson, Justen Ladda, and Jenny Holzer.

A major exhibition of works by this group, "The Times Square Show Revisited," examining Colab's landmark 1980 exhibition, is on view at the Hunter College Leubsdorf Gallery.
Betsy Sussler, the editor of Bomb Magazine, with Tom Otterness and Coleen Fitzgibbon.
Artist Sheila Berger with her 14-year-old daughter, Nicolaia Rips. Ms. Rips quipped: "Occupation: Singer" as I was writing down her name. She's a student at LaGuardia.

I knew that young singer looked familiar! Here she is with her parents, novelist Michael Rips and Sheila Berger in 2005, when they all lived at the Chelsea.
Bettina Prentice started her own company, Prentice Communications, in 2008. She handles media relations for many of the top galleries in New York, London, and Paris. I have known Bettina since she was an infant and now she is expecting a baby girl.

Gallery owner Richard Feigen : "I represented Rosenquist for all the years that he wallowed in obscurity. Then I released him to the clutches of Bill Acquavella where he flourished."

Mr. Feigen declined an invitation to yodel for me but offered to cook me some wienerschnitzel.
As I was leaving the gallery I bumped into Agnes Gund and Jack Shear, who had just come from the Andy Warhol opening at the Met. Mr. Shear is Ellsworth Kelly's partner and was featured in my recent photojournal on Mr. Kelly's plant drawings.

Kelly, ten years Rosenquist's senior, was one of the great influences on the development of what would become Pop Art, a style which Rosenquist both embraced and fought, independently of Warhol and Lichtenstein, two other Americans identified with the movement.

Kelly, Rosenquist, and Agnes Martin shared a studio building by the Lower Manhattan waterfront. They drank in the Cedar Taven with Johns, Rauschenberg, and de Kooning.

Mr. Shear is carrying a skateboard he had just purchased with Warhol's famous Marilyn Monroe image. Alas, he was unable to hop on and glide gracefully down Madison Avenue because the wheels had not yet been attached.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.