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Painting Below Zero

A Life In Art

James Rosenquist

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Describes hearing a live radio broadcast from WW2 Europe interviewed General George Patton: "We kicked the fucking sons of bitches arses down the fucking Rhine and we're going to kick them all the way back to Berlin."

As a billboard painter he learnt the Brooklyn Bridge technique of enlarging a small pic. You draw a grid of squares, and then make diagonals all the way down, like a fan. 'Put some blue in, it'll make the pic look like a strip of film'.

When he'd paint a portrait - movie stars heads 25 feet high - they became abstract closeup, curls and swirls of hair in shades of blond or brown or black.

A lot of his imagery inspired by his billboard painting, where several images had to be painted, all at different scales depending on what was being advertised. Fragments of images to hint at an idea.

Interesting that 'pop' used to be something transient, not worth saving, but has lasted for decades and has become part of the culture.

Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rosenquist often mentioned in the same breath, but in fact we didn't meet until 1964, years after we started painting what is now called pop art.

He nearly dumped President Elect bc it had been damaged in transfers, and he actually put it on the truck to take it to the dump, but then needed the truck next day so took it out again. Eventually got round to repairing it, and when a couple of English collectors visited and offered to buy it, he named $35,000 purely as a joke (twice what top impressionist paintings were going for in 1967). They took it, and later onsold it to the Center Pompidou in Paris.

Before Andy Warhol got shot, another woman had walked into The Factory with a gun and fired a bullet through a stack of Marilyns. They're now known as the Shot Marilynsand are very valuable.

In the 60's all his clothes wound up covered in paint, so when he went to friend's gallery openings, he would have to hire a tux, at $50 a throw. So he got a brown paper suit made. Wore it about 8 times before it fell apart. Then in 2006 he was commissioned to do 3 huge paintings for the new Deutsche Guggenheim, and one of the sponsors asked if they could make reproductions of the suit and sell them (at $450 each) for charity.

At a Miami Art Basel he saw an exact copy of his Dishes painting from 1964, signed Elaine Sturtevant/James Rosenquist, which was for sale for seven hundred thousand dollars.

Knew a couple of hard-case art dealers who named galleries based on sayings - "Show me the green" became the Green Gallery, "Oil them up and steal their money!" became Oil & Steel.

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