James Rosenquist - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Phillips
  • “The Pegasus in Paper Clip was also a memory for me: the flying horse was the icon for Mobil Oil, and my dad worked for Mobil. I had to pull a wagon in the parade with the Pegasus symbol on it. I was a gas station kid.”
    —James Rosenquist

    James Rosenquist’s childhood spent in North Dakota was a frequent reference point throughout his career, and in Paper Clip, this connection is particularly palpable.  Rosenquist referred to the print, saying it is “saturated with personal meanings; I thought a lot about the enigmatic parallels between autobiography and art.”The focal point of the composition is the flying red horse, appropriated from the iconic emblem of the Mobil Oil Company, for whom the artist’s father worked. Playing with scale, the Pegasus is “hooked” in place by the larger-than-life titular paper clip. But to him, the paper clip represents more, or perhaps more specifically, nothing. Each individual image, the blank pages enclosed in the wallet, the open circle around the Pegasus, the hands of a women holding an empty square and a cropped, upside-down banner reading, “THIS IS LOVE IN 1971,” and the receipt that adds to nothing, they were all voids. As Rosenquist describes, “This was my state of mind at the time. That’s when I was broke. Emptiness, zero, nothing. For me a paper clip has the look of a Möbius strip, something that goes around and around and around and just ends up where it started."ii To him, Paper Clip was both an homage to his childhood and a portrait of his contemporary life.


    Rosenquist in Times Square, New York, 1958. Image: Courtesy of the Estate of James Rosenquist


    Rosenquist’s career beginnings are unequivocally present in his construction of Paper Clip. Its massive size and composition, centering the icon of Mobil Oil Company, strikingly resembles a billboard advertisement. The artist’s found his first job in New York City painting billboards and quickly grew accustomed to monumental forms. Due to his proximity to advertisements, Rosenquist developed an artistic proclivity toward their bright and eye-catching imagery, which he adapted for his personal practice. Searching through volumes of Life, Rosenquist would cut out pictures and reassemble them to form collages that he then used as the base inspiration for each of his compositions.


    James Rosenquist, Source for Paper Clip, 1973. Magazine clippings and mixed media on paper, with adventitious marks. 17" x 27" (43.2 x 68.6 cm) approx. Destroyed in studio fire 4/25/09. Artwork: © James Rosenquist Foundation / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


    Hidden in plain sight, Rosenquist references Eastern philosophy, for which he had a strong interest. The triangle, circle, and square are said to come together to represent a harmonious universe: the triangle, represented by the wallet, for the beginning of all forms, the circle, as seen around the horse, for infinity and the basis of life, and the square held between two feminine figures– a triangle double formed– for the multiplicity of forms that comprise the entire multidimensional universe. In Paper Clip, the implication of harmony serves to unite each seemingly disparate object to form a cohesive pictorial universe. This theme appears in other works throughout his oeuvre including Tampa – New York 1188, another autobiographical work previously sold in Works from the James Rosenquist Estate, February 14, 2024.


    James Rosenquist, Tampa—New York 1188 (G. 81), 1974-75, Phillips, Works from the James Rosenquist Estate, February 15, 2024. Artwork: © James Rosenquist Foundation / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


    The 1973 painting of Paper Clip hangs in the atrium of the Dallas Museum of Art, where the flying red horse is revered as the unofficial emblem of the city and the reference to oil and gas is right at home in the heart of Texas.


    i James Rosenquist, Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art, p. 222.

    ii Ibid, p. 223.

    • Literature

      Constance Glenn 71


Paper Clip (G. 71)

Monumental lithograph in colors, on Arches paper, with full margins.
I. 31 x 61 3/4 in. (78.7 x 156.8 cm)
S. 36 1/2 x 69 1/8 in. (92.7 x 175.6 cm)

Signed, titled, dated and numbered 23/75 in pencil (there were also 20 artist's proofs), published by Petersburg Press, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$3,000 - 4,000 

Sold for $4,826

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 16 - 17 April