CARA MANES: This room, the gallery dedicated to 1964, is actually occupied by just one work of art: the 86-foot-long painting F-111 by the artist James Rosenquist.
The composition unfolds across 23 panels. So if you look to your left as you enter, you'll spot the tail of the painting's subject, the F-111 fighter bomber plane, a Vietnam War weapon in development at the time. The body of the plane is interspersed with spliced-up images of commercial products taken from advertisements and other fragmented references to war.
Rosenquist wanted the painting to create its own environment. He's often spoken of his interest in the phenomenon of peripheral vision as a driving force behind his decision to make a room-scaled painting. Whatever our eye focuses on at any given moment is necessarily influenced by information at the outermost perimeters of our field of vision. It's impossible to take in the whole image at once. So you focus on one area at a time and let your eyes become totally saturated with bright colors and bold images. This way of looking comes from Rosenquist's own history of working as a billboard painter in New York where he had to home in on one small area at a time of what would be ultimately immense advertising compositions.
He was also keenly interested in the work of impressionist painter Claude Monet, whose water lilies paintings create their own immersive environments for the viewer, and also the immense all-over compositions of the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman.
I had the great opportunity to work with the artist to install this work a few years ago at the museum. And one of the things I loved the most was hearing what he was thinking about at the time that he made this work. He recorded some of these recollections and if you’d like to hear them, there is another audio stop in this room.