Monday, April 2, 2012

James Rosenquist with David Dalton; Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art. ISBN: 978-0-307-26342-1. by craniv boyd.

James Rosenquist with David Dalton; Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art. ISBN: 978-0-307-26342-1. by craniv boyd. 

Painting Below Zero is  a fresh autobiography, of James Rosenquist, a significant pop artist who, in his recounting of his life in art and of his life in America, provides insight into the 20th century as it occurred in that nation. Rosenquist is a Scandinavian American, who grew up in a closely knit farming community in the mid western  United States. He was born in the midst of the great depression, and the the changing quality of, life in America, before during and after after the second world war, is expressed in his account, of a nomadic youth spent in North Dakota,  Minnesota and Ohio. The procedure of becoming an artist, and hard decisions made in cash poor and difficult times are facets in early adulthood for  Rosenquist.

Employed as a billboard, sign painter, and responsible for the faithful copying of the smiles of children drinking coca-cola at nine feet or three meters in width, James Rosenquist, collected early on the job experience that was to influence both his art ideas and his ability to work on extra large format paintings. That a prominent pop artist has his roots and the proverbial "first-job" in the advertising sector, is telling. The large chasm that once existed between fine arts and high culture  and the low art of propaganda was transgressed by Rosenquist and other pop protagonists.  In this book he offers refreshing insights into the ideas behind his consumer culture saturated paintings, and the changing cultural climate of North America bracketed from the nineteen thirties until the present.  

The structure of the book is a standard chronology,the stations of the artists life, are those punctuated by major works and series he authored. The chapters corresponding paintings also address  the successes and failings of said works in the public realm, and how the artist dealt with the external response to his work. The New York city of Leo Castelli, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg, is recounted from a narrator that was a friend, a colleague to those artists and art dealer. Personal tragedies, are not spared in this account, and the life of the artist is included, with a great deal of frankness. 

The overriding tone of the book is jocular, one feels as if, laughter may arise when looking at  Rosenquist's paintings after reading his life account in his own words. Due to the lighthearted and easygoing approach to his own painting ideas. The voice of the author is one that is warm, friendly  and generous. As a result one feels like a chum of the artist, rather than in awe of the accomplishments of a diva painter with a Guggenheim retrospective under his-belt. The biography features several photographs of  the artist at work, from billboards in North Dakota, to a cold water flat in Little Italy of Manhattan, to an island in the Florida Keys. The photographs of Rosenquist's  nomadic work spaces, are accompanied by quality color reproductions of all of the Paintings that Rosenquist, mentions over the course of his account. A luxurious two-page, full-color, fold-out  reproduction of an epic painting of pop art F-111, from the year 1964, insures that this auto-biography is alert to his artistic accomplishments in their own right. by craniv boyd.

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