In 1960, James Rosenquist translated his training as a commercial billboard painter into fine art when he began creating paintings of monumental scale that collaged advertising and magazine images from all realms of American life into dizzying display of the country’s culture of mass mediation. Rosenquist’s timing was perfect. Then working in the same studio building as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Indiana and Ellsworth Kelly, Rosenquist was formulating what would become known as Pop Art at the same time that Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were developing their own takes on popular culture in different parts of New York City.
2 New Clear Women comes from later in Rosenquist’s life, when he had established himself as a master artist of incredible technical innovation. This painting on paper features the faces of two smiling women taken from beauty advertisements. Spun on their sides, so they women’s faces are placed chin-to-chin, each is striated with deep long cuts that reinforce the their sources were originally printed magazines. 2 New Clear Women is related to the 46 foot painting Four New Clear Women that debuted at Leo Castelli Gallery the same year. Roberta Smith described the experience of viewing Four New Clear Women in her review of Rosenquist’s exhibition for The Village Voice: “Walking into Castelli’s Green Street and seeing for the first 17-by-46 foot Four New Clear Women is like encountering the Columbia or Hoover Dam of paintings—for the first few seconds all you see is size, as well as an art so all-American, familiar, and public that it doesn’t quite seem to be the work of only one person, but rather the expression of some more diffuse national self. ...Four New Clear Women lives up to its hidden title with an explosive intersection of four cover-girl faces whose deeply scissored edges cause a near disintegration at the center, as if pure white light were burning through (R. Smith, “Photos and Realism,” The Village Voice, Nov. 1, 1983, reprinted in James Rosenquist: The Big Paintings, Thirty Years: Leo Castelli, New York, 1994, n.p.).
Following the creation of, Rosenquist would use the “crosshatched” motif” to merge advertising images of women’s faces with images of flowers and plants. In fact, writer Michelle Harewood has suggested that the palm fronds surrounding Rosenquist’s studio in Aripeka, Florida, with their long leaves that alternatingly obscure and reveal anything place behind them. Harewood explains the artist’s intention: “Rosenquist, in a similar rebellious desire to move beyond the two-dimensional picture plane into other spaces, developed his crosshatch technique. He often pierces images depicting natural or astronomical events with human forms to elucidate and emphasize the threats posed by our increasingly technological environments” (M. Harwood, “Flora and Florida: ‘Crosshatched’ Paintings,” James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, New York, 2005, p. 204). Thus, 2 and Four New Clear Women anticipate the artist’s large scale paintings of the mid-1980s. But, more so, Rosenquist’s meticulously hand-drawn and painted images also the advancement of computer image technologies that have developed since.