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James Rosenquist

Waves

1962

James Rosenquist learned to paint through steady employment as a commercial sign-painter and began to use techniques of the trade to make his own works during the early 1960s. Unlike billboards, however, his paintings resist the clarity of advertisements. In Waves, multiple commercial images overlap, each an incomplete shard taken from a magazine photograph or print ad. Vulgar, tense, and confused, the collaged images render communication and narrative mute, frustrating both comprehension and desire. Waves is not so much a critique of commercial imagery as a pictorial metaphor for how one sees such images in a culture that is saturated with them.

James Rosenquist (b. 1933, Grand Forks, North Dakota; lives and works in Aripeka, Florida, and New York)
Waves, 1962
Oil on canvas
56 x 77 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Panza Collection

For me things have to be life size or larger. I believe it is possible to bring something so close that you can see through it, so it comes to you right off the wall. I like to bring things into unexpected immediacy—as if someone thrust something right next to your face—a beer bottle or his shirt cuff—and said, “How do you like it?” —James Rosenquist

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