“I don't do anecdotes. I accumulate experiences.”
An Obituary for James Rosenquist

He was one of the most important representatives of American Pop art. James Rosenquist began his career on Time Square in New York. During his studies, he made a living as a billboard painter, creating life-sized advertising for the latest Hollywood films and fast cars. Back in the early sixties, he developed his own form of New Realism, dissecting motifs from advertising and billboards, recombining them, and transferring them to large-format canvases. “I'm interested in contemporary vision – the flicker of chrome, reflections, rapid associations, quick flashes of light. Bing-bang! I don't do anecdotes. I accumulate experiences,” Rosenquist wrote about his artistic work.
This collage principle characterizes his largest canvas The Swimmer in the Economist, which is 48 meters long. It is akin to a time capsule of twentieth-century history, Rosenquist once said about his room-filling painting. It was commissioned by Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the exhibition hall in Berlin that they ran together. His “Swimmer” is an image for the new Berlin following the fall of the Wall. At the same time, it alludes to Picasso’s Guernica and addresses twentieth-century art and wars, growing virtualization, and the breakneck pace of economic and political upheavals at the dawn of the new millennium. The viewer is pulled into a garish swirl of color in which reflections of logos, consumer goods, and high-end technology of the late twentieth century blend together. In 2003, the painting was also exhibited at a Deutsche Bank-sponsored retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York.  

Rosenquist’s works are invariably critical commentary. His Environmental Painting F-111, created after American troops marched into Vietnam, brings together the eponymous fighter bomber, a smiling girl under a drying hood, and an atomic bomb fireball in a vision of American culture which, in 1965 , demonstrated to a shocked public the close relationship between euphoria and catastrophe. "Mr. Rosenquist, notwithstanding the enormous size of many of his paintings, is a Haiku master of the American psyche," is how the New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman described the artist. Now Rosenquist has died at the age of 83 in New York. The full force and dynamism of his paintings can be experienced in this fall in Cologne, where Museum Ludwig is devoting a large retrospective to the artist.