James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
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James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection
James Rosenquist (1933-2017)

Fast Pain Relief

James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
Fast Pain Relief
signed and dated 'James Rosenquist 1962' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas with lightbulbs and sockets
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1962-1963.
John Kloss, New York, acquired directly from the artist
Green Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright, Seattle, 1964
Richard Bellamy, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Kolin, New York, 1970
PaceWildenstein, New York
Private collection, Los Angeles, 1996
Private collection, New York
Diego Cortez Arte Ltd., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1998
G. Young, "America's Revolt from Abstraction," The Observer Weekend Review, 13 January 1963.
James Rosenquist: Gemälde-Räume-Graphik, exh. cat., Cologne, WallrafRichartz-Museums, 1972, p. 124.
James Rosenquist, exh. cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1972, p. 47 (illustrated).
James Rosenquist, exh. cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1985, p. 113 (illustrated).
J. Goldman, James Rosenquist: The Early Pictures, 1961-1964, New York, 1992, p. 93 (illustrated).
Portland Museum of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. C Bagley Wright: Twentieth Century American and European Paintings and Sculpture, November-December 1964, n.p., no. 48 (illustrated).
Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Twentieth Century Painting from the Collections in the State of Washington, September-October 1966.
East Hampton, Guild Hall Museum, American Masters: Works of Art from East Hampton Collections and the Guild Hall Museum Collection, May-June 1987.

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Lot Essay

An early example in James Rosenquist’s innovative body of work, Fast Pain Relief heralds the coming of Pop Art while paying tribute to the history of painting. Hypothesized to be the sister painting to Marilyn Monroe, I, another work of 1962 which is held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the present lot was originally titled Marilyn Monroe No. 2, but changed after the starlet’s early death in 1962. As such, Fast Pain Relief captures the late actresses’ face overlaid with a gray and black rectangle upon which a small blue hand a very large pill have been painted. Her nose, part of her lips, and an eyebrow are visible, but the rest of her face is obscured. Composed in discrete sections, the present lot has Rosenquist’s quintessential optical power of a large billboard or double-page magazine ad.

Although there was much to ally him to the movement thanks to his renderings of consumer products and movie stars in a cool, impersonal, graphic manner, Rosenquist never quite saw himself as a true member of Pop art. It is true there are certain important elements to his work that make him a singular member of the movement. For one, Rosenquist was always a painter’s painter, preferring in almost every case to paint by hand instead of relying on mechanical techniques that had come to be synonymous with Pop artists thanks to Warhol’s silkscreens and Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day stencils. He was, according to Walter Hopps, “a superb painter in a very traditional sense, producing very untraditional images” (W. Hopps. “Connoissuer of the Inexplicable,” in James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, exh., cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2004, p. 8). Moreover, he had a distinct disavowal of the nostalgia often communicated in the paintings of other Pop artists. Instead, he preferred ambiguity. He eschewed brand names and recognizable objects. He painted real things, but cropped and distorted them at arbitrary angles, turning the familiar into the unfamiliar. Rosenquist didn’t share Warhol’s satire, Oldenburg’s wit or Lichtenstein’s cerebral pondering of style. What he does share with his contemporaries, however, is an intense intrigue for the people and objects that make America uniquely its own, and the unsuspecting agitation that can accompany them.

In many ways, Marilyn is a textbook emblem of this mass foray into pop culture ushered in during the 1950s and 60s, and the hidden tension underscoring America’s Golden Age. A patron saint of Pop, she appears in works by numerous artists working at the time. In art, her name is most synonymous with Andy Warhol, but she has made her share of appearances in Rosenquist’s oeuvre, most notably in Marilyn Monroe, I, painted the same year as the present lot and presently hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In this work, her face is similarly broken into quarters and flipped at various orientations, with the letters “A-R-I-L-Y,” a portion of her name, scrawled across the center. In Marilyn Monroe, I, the actress shares an equal sense of incompleteness as in the present lot, with Rosenquist almost suggesting her and the notoriety of her early death rather than actually painting her – similar to Warhol’s own foreboding portrait of the actress in his iconic Death and Disaster series. Yet despite the sense of dissolution Rosenquist has portrayed in Fast Pain Relief, Marilyn still eludes us as a symbol of feminine beauty. Specifically, Rosenquist expertly paints the fragmentation of Marilyn’s lips and her knees, positioned in a quotation of her iconic performance in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

Likewise, the center of the composition in the present lot is divided by a gradient strip that fades from black at the top to light gray at the bottom. Within this band, Rosenquist has installed three sockets that contain regular incandescent lightbulbs. The effect is something like that of a marquee, the bright light playing with the painted surface as it might with a poster displaying coming attractions at the theater, or the spotlights of a mirror in a starlet’s dressing room. However, only the center bulb is lit, giving a lonely air to the work. Drawing allusions to Jasper Johns’s Light Bulb, the presence of illuminated and darkened fixtures allows for a viewing of the bulb as an iconic shape rather than simply as a light source. Across all of this, in airbrushed stencils that bleed into the rest of the pictorial space and layers atop each other, the artist repeats the words “FAST PAIN RELIEF,” perhaps resembling the mass onslaught of headlines that braced the nation upon Marilyn’s death. Paired with the pill and body parts, the words bring to mind an advertisement for an over-the-counter painkiller. However, the lack of any discernible branding and the way everything is cropped creates an air of anonymity that is at odds with the clearly-labeled appropriations of his colleagues.

In any case, Fast Pain Relief brilliantly illustrates Rosenquist’s ability to distance common objects and popular images through scale, fragmentation and unlikely juxtaposition, allowing the images to gain new meaning through their recontextualized relationships. Despite setting his art apart from his contemporaries, he nonetheless was described in 2003 by the critic Peter Schjeldahl as “one of the big three masters of American Pop painting, with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein” (P. Schjeldahl, quoted in M. Schudel, “James Rosenquist, painter of unnerving large-scale masterworks, dies at 83,” Washington Post, April 3, 2017, accessed November 27, 2018.

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