Monday, April 3, 2017

Pop Has Eaten Itself

Ok, sort of a cheesy pun on the group Pop Will Eat Itself.  I do think there is a point of no return, launched in a general way by Pop Art, which the art world has reached today where it has become so self-referential and fairly shallow (think Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst).  However, this post really isn't about that.

Rather, I want to make a small shout out to James Rosenquist, who died on Saturday.  The Guardian obituary is reasonably comprehensive.  I assume the one in the NY Times is longer, but I try not to dip behind their paywall too often.

I managed to see two major Rosenquist exhibits over the years.  One was a bit of a surprise that I stumbled across at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and focused on his large print works (covered in Time Dust: Complete Graphics 1962-92) and then the major retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2003, which also had a very comprehensive catalogue.

You really need to see a massive Rosenquist print or painting in person, but here are a few that I like, even in miniature.

James Rosenquist, Star Thief, 1980

James Rosenquist, Time Dust, 1992

James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964

Of course, to really get the impact of F-111, you not only need to see it in person, but you need to see it wrapped around a room of the proper dimensions.  It was set up that way at the Guggenheim exhibit and it was displayed "properly" at MoMA in 2012.  It is not currently on view at MoMA.

Rosenquist is probably my second favorite Pop artist, somewhat behind Jasper Johns.*  Roy Lichtenstein is probably third, though I generally prefer his much later work, not his work from the 60s.  Claes Oldenburg is probably fourth on the list, as his work always brings a smile to my face.

As I was deciding what to write, it struck me that nearly all of the Pop artists of the 60s have passed away.  Drawing on a list of Pop artists on Ranker, I believe only Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, Jim Dine, Peter Blake and Wayne Thiebaud are still alive.  Certainly not very many.

* These rankings definitely do shift for me  A couple of years ago I was ranking Rosenquist ahead of Johns, but I really do like Johns's Four Seasons (below), so right now he has pulled ahead.

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