James Rosenquist - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London

  • Exhibited

    Aspen, Baldwin Gallery, James Rosenquist, Meteors: New Paintings, March 12 - May 1, 1999
    Las Vegas, the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian, American Pop Icons, May 15–November 2, 2003

  • Literature

    J. Goldman, James Rosenquist: Paintings 1996-1999, Aspen: Baldwin Gallery, 1999, n.n. (illustrated)
    W. Hopps and S. Bancroft, James Rosenquist : A Retrospective, New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2003, pp. 13, 262, fig. 25, cat. no. 139 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ Meteors make you think about what’s significant, and what has consequences and what doesn’t during your brief time on earth.”

    In six decades of James Rosenquist’s art, there are but a few constants: the first is his attention to consumer marketing strategies, the second is his unswerving consciousness as an artist creating art history, and the third is rather simple—his prolific love of creation. Addressing the first constant, Rosenquist’s Pop label is only a critic’s term—a way to categorize an artist without emphasizing the unique importance of his own work. But the second two constants are the defing factors of Rosenquist’s career, in which we witness an artist’s uncompromising desire to understand and establish his work in contemporary America. The Meteor Hits the Swimmer’s Pillow, 1997 is from a four part series of Meteors that crash into the slumbering masters of Western Art: while Monet, Picasso, and Brancusi all receive their own treatment, the sleep interrupted here is Rosenquist’s own.

    Rosenquist’s background in billboard painting—essentially blowing up the schemas of advertising executives—gave him his first fodder for making art. Combining Americana with its Pop Culture ideals, Rosenquist shaped and painted his creations with a new mentality: art by the consumer, for the consumer. Also contributing to his own projects as a fine artist was the enormous scale in which he was forced to work in his billboard paintings: size was not only important for grabbing attention in contemporary America, but perhaps the most pivotal factor overall. In the subsequent decades, he has taken us on a ride through the beautiful and the sinister, remaking the familiar in the light of art.

    But by the late nineties, working as one of the most respected figures to come out of the turbulent sixties, Rosenquist could not help but reflect upon his own status, importance, and general impact on visual arts. While we often find narratives within the pieces of art that Rosenquist appropriates and splices, what was his own narrative? As a commission by Deutsche Bank for the Berlin’s Guggenheim, 1997’s The Swimmer in the Econo-mist #2 was Rosenquist’s initial attempt to put his career in retrospective terms, abstracting his ever-present visual tropes of the laundry room into a swirling mural of gorgeous color and texture.

    In a more compact, more comparative scale was his Meteor series, in which a he envisions an explosive impact of image and figure for separate artists within the Western canon. The present lot, 1997’s The Meteor Hits the Swimmer’s Pillow, is a reference to his own place alongside the masters of the past. The huge scale of the painting allows both intimate and distant viewing pleasures for the viewer, both equally rapturous. In the foreground, a rainbow beam of fire delivers a cannonball shaped meteor into the pillow of the artist’s bed, precipitating the detonation of image behind it. “Gain” and “Ultra 2” swirl in massive reds, fiery yellows and faming oranges, a tribute to Rosenquist’s visual themes of the past. Juxtaposed with blurred forest greens and powder blues, the scene is a joyous calamity: a farcical blast of fabulous beauty. explaining the source for the series, Rosenquist shares, ”In 1983, I was living in western Minnesota, and, twelve miles north of me, a great big fat lady was lying in bed one night when a meteor as big as a baseball came crashing through her roof, hit her on the hip, and went through the floor. it didn’t kill her, but it gave her a giant bruise – and it was the talk of the town! So I thought about that, and I thought about a meteor as a natural disaster that comes from space like an exclamation point. What does it mean to be hit by one! That you’re lucky or unlucky?” (James Rosenquist, 1999, from an interview with Walter Hopps, featured in “Connoisseur the Inexplicable”, James Rosenquist: a Retrospective, Eds. W. Hopps and S. Bancroft, New York, 2003, p. 13)

    Though it is of a piece with its three sister paintings, which portray the meteors alternative routes to the bedrooms of Picasso, Brancusi, and Monet, the present lot is Rosenquist’s most personal, most exploratory, and most fascinating: we observe an artist reflecting upon his past work while using it to inspire new art in a veritable spin cycle of creation—Rosenquist’s ingenious method of comprehending his remarkably deserved place among his historical predecessors.

    “Brancusi’s studio is a more somber place. Endless columns rising from its floor like death markers, and the anthropomorphic wooden king looms larger than life… Monet’s studio was his garden pond, where he conducted experiments in light and color, and here, amongst the dark interior rooms of Brancusi and Picasso, it is an oasis, hushed, tranquil and opulent. But the meteor will soon explode.” (J. Goldman, James Rosenquist: Paintings 1996-1999, Aspen: Baldwin Gallery, 1999.) The narrative here is both within and without the canvas: within, it is the mischievous magic triggered by an extraterrestrial accident. Without, it is James Rosenquist’s marvelous realization of his own historicity.


The Meteor Hits the Swimmer's Pillow

oil on canvas, with coiled metal springs
96 x 69 x 5 in. (243.8 x 175.3 x 12.7 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated "James Rosenquist 1997 'the meteor hits the swimmers pillow" on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm