James Rosenquist: Visualising the Sixties review

3 out of 5 stars
James Rosenquist: Visualising the Sixties review
Photo by Ulrich Ghezzi

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Imagine viewing the world through a blob of transparent jelly and you’ll come close-ish to recreating what 1960s America looks like in the art of James Rosenquist.

The artist isn’t an especially familiar name to British art fans, but he’s normally scooped up into the pop art bucket. His art ticks a lot of those boxes but he also has an aesthetic of his own. You’ll find a lot of advertising images here, sure, but the pervading feeling is that of a slo-mo perfume ad, not a short, sharp sports-break commercial.

At the centre of this exhibition is a room filled with eight paintings, all showing close-up fragments of faces, body parts and domestic items. Despite the boldness of the compositions, everything is given a soft-focus filter so even cold, hard objects like forks, spoons and combs become colloids, that weird toothpaste half-state between solid and liquid.

This ground floor room is the highlight of the show, although there’s also an interesting installation upstairs made of an all-American automobile painted on to strips of transparent plastic that visitors can walk through. In between are corridors filled with Rosenquist bumf: photos, leaflets and a lot of preliminary collages which become more interesting once you’ve seen the impressive end product, but not so much before.

But the strangest thing (or the most unique thing, depending on your taste) is Rosenquist’s use of colour. His palette is absolutely not the saturated primary brights normally associated with pop art. Instead, he uses very specific artificial shades of paint, the type of colours you might see if you stared at advertising boards in the glaring sun. A grapefruit half is the colour of Kia-Ora orange squash, a blotch of Barbie pink literally comes out of the blue, and a woman’s upturned face is illuminated in toxic B-movie yellow. It’s not pop, but it does crackle.

By: Rosemary Waugh


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