I don’t like abstract art.
I said it, it’s not a controversial opinion and I’m okay with that.
I was worried I was going to have a pretty rough time writing on this era of art for that reason. Abstract expressionism is one of those movements I just have a deep ambivalence towards, verging on a slightly disdainful apathy. I’m aware of how harshly people bag on it, extol that it takes no skill to make (obviously untrue), and I’m okay with coming to terms that I just prefer art that has representational elements to it. Sometimes postmodernism’s fixation on being ironic, pseudo-philosophical and hyper conceptual just comes off as being obnoxiously self-indulgent and self-congratulatory over how clever we all are for subverting art.
All personal saltiness aside, if you can mix a bit of abstraction into things without treading into the black morass of high falutin’ bellybutton gazing, I can get down with that.
So without further ado, I was pleasantly surprised to find James Rosenquist in the midst of my research.
He started out wanting to get into sign painting, but more specifically wanting to go to mural painting school. He moved into billboard painting before getting into fine art, and ironically, never considered himself a pop artist, apparently the tag stuck thanks to labeling from art critics since he had recognizable elements in his work.
It’s interesting that he caught on quite early and managed to keep that momentum and relevance going all the way up until his death in 2017. I think it would have been easy to lose relevancy if he didn’t adapt and change tack at some point, but he turned and started exploring the intersections between science, technology and aesthetics in the 80s and started producing very different work from his early era.
Some of his more contemporary work, below:
This painting below in particular is incredibly impressive to me from a technical painting standpoint. To render the distortion, coloured light and reflections takes extreme observational chops, and I think a piece like this would have driven a less skilled painter to outright madness.
I was quite happy finding his work, I thought it provided a nice bridge between the two movements for me while also moving forward and innovating after the respective art movements began to peter out. That, and I felt like at least a third of the class was going to write on Roy Lichtenstein, so I’m glad to have found Rosenquists’ work!