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James Rosenquist’s “Sand of the Cosmic Desert in Every Direction” (left), and “Quantam Universe,” 2012. Courtesy Richard L. Feigen & Company, New York

In April 2009 a forest fire destroyed [James Rosenquist’s] Aripeka, Florida, home, including a large studio and his personal art collection. “I didn’t cry in my beer after that,” he says. “I just went back to work and tried to forget about it.” Still, the event, in which he lost a reported $14 million in artwork, seems to have had an understandably traumatic effect. He readily brings it up in conversation—“It was a real dent in my career, destroying a lot of stuff”—goaded by the fact that, because the property is deemed to be in a new flood plain, the government won’t allow him to rebuild.

Asked if the loss of so much of his output in the fire caused him to reevaluate his oeuvre or career, he retorts, with some disdain, that no, he doesn’t concern himself with the past, only with “what’s ahead.” Rosenquist does not look back, doesn’t dwell on history. Indeed, he claims the past doesn’t press on him: “Nothing weighs on me. I don’t feel any weight.” But he is very much concerned with time.

He turned 80 this past November and corrects me when I suggest that his upcoming exhibition, opening April 29 at Bjorn Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm, is composed of recent works. No, he says, they’re “late works.” And unlike those Pop pieces for which he is best known, Rosenquist’s later efforts have few recognizable images. Stars, galactic dust, as well as the effects of red or blue shift abound, usually presented in tightly juxtaposed, sharp-edged prismatic planes. Most were made in 2012, and some were first shown at Acquavella, his gallery in New York. The following summer he had a bout of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, an illness that put him in the hospital for a month, where, he recounts, “I had hallucinations that were very vivid. They were cinematic, not like paintings.”

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Daniel Kunitz
Blouin Art Info

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