James Rosenquist was born on this day in Grand Forks, North Dakota, to parents of Swedish descent. His mother, who was also a painter, encouraged him to have an artistic interest. In junior high school, Rosenquist won a short-term scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art and subsequently studied painting at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. In 1955, he moved to New York City on scholarship to study at the Art Students League.
From 1957 to 1960, he earned his living as a billboard painter, amongst other of the enormous billboards in Times Square. This turned out to be the perfect training for an artist about to explore the pop art scene. In 1960, he began to work with bizarre juxtapositions of fragments of immense, sometimes unrecognizable images derived mainly from advertisements, mass media and pop references. Brought together and enlarged so as to cover entire gallery walls and overwhelm the viewer, these seemingly unrelated pictures of consumer products, weaponry, and celebrities hint at the artist's social, political, and cultural concerns.
In fact, he is considered one of the fathers of the Pop Art movement along with Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Rosenquist has said about his involvement in the Pop Art movement: "They [art critics] called me a Pop artist because I used recognizable imagery. The critics like to group people together. I didn't meet Andy Warhol until 1964. I did not really know Andy or Roy Lichtenstein that well. We all emerged separately."
Six decades into his career, Rosenquist continues to create massive, provocative paintings, whose relevance hinges on their engagement with current economic, political, environmental, and scientific issues.
Because he successfully moved beyond his early fascination with popular culture and mass media to address new issues, such as the intersection of science and aesthetics, Rosenquist is credited with being one the few Pop artists whose later work continues to be relevant.
Today, Rosenquist’s work is represented in public and private collections worldwide, in the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Tate Modern in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for example. The Guggenheim Museum organized in 2003 one of the most important retrospective exhibition on the artist which travelled around the world.
He lives in New York and in Tampa, Florida.