Painting as Immersion: Loans from the Deutsche Bank Collection in James Rosenquist Retrospective

Images like spaces: James Rosenquist makes painting a total experience. His works virtually envelop the viewer. They are akin to a visual allover in which surfaces and motifs of the modern world are reflected. This is particularly apparent in one of his last works, the three-part ensemble The Swimmer in the Econo-mist, which, 48 meters long, is his largest painting. Rosenquist viewed the commissioned work, realized for the Deutsche Guggenheim in 1997, as an image of the new Berlin after the fall of the Wall. It deals with art and twentieth-century wars, increasing virtualization, and the breakneck speed of economic and political upheavals at the beginning of the millennium. The viewer is pulled into a garish vortex of color that fuses reflections of logos, consumer goods, and high-end technology. The partly giant drafts for this work from the Deutsche Bank Collection, as well as the monumental work itself, are now on view at Museum Ludwig in Cologne.
The artist, who died on March 31 of this year, authorized the concept of the large-scale retrospective James Rosenquist: Painting as Immersion himself and accompanied its development from the very beginning. Now it is the first posthumous exhibition of the Pop Art star, who helped shape U.S. art for decades. Perhaps only today, at a time when the term “immersive art” is used often, is it clear how progressive Rosenquist actually was. Immersion is a key phenomenon of the digitalized world. In art, too, people want to immerse themselves in a world of experience that envelops them completely. Rosenquist anticipated this tendency with his gigantic painting installations back in the 1960s. He did so with what may be his most famous work, also on exhibit in Cologne: the 1965 installation F-111, named after a fighter bomber, which was created as a reaction to the Vietnam War and is, after Picasso’s Guernica, perhaps the most important antiwar painting of the twentieth century.

James Rosenquist. Painting as Immersion
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
November 18, 2017 – March 4, 2018