James Rosenquist F-111 1964-65

  • Not on view

Rosenquist created F-111 for his first solo show at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery: the dimensions of its fifty-nine interlocking panels were determined by the four walls of that particular space, so that the work, once hung, would surround and enclose the viewer. An F-111 fighter-bomber stretches the length of the painting, enveloped and overtaken by oversize images culled mostly from photographs and printed advertisements, including a wallpaper-like floral pattern, an angel food cake, a Firestone tire, light bulbs, a fork stuck in spaghetti, and a beach umbrella superimposed on an atomic blast. With its jumps in scale, its collage-style juxtaposition of image fragments, and its vivid palette, the painting exemplifies Rosenquist’s singular contribution to Pop art.

F-111 was painted in the middle of one of the most turbulent decades in US history. The fighter-bomber it depicts was, at the time, in the planning stages, and Rosenquist understood its mission to be as economic as it was military—to create jobs for Americans and support the country’s gross national product. He characterized the imagery of the painting as “a plane flying through the flak of an economy,” with the little girl under the metallic hairdryer as its pilot; he described its underwater diver in more ominous terms, as evocative of humans gasping for air during an atomic holocaust.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

Rosenquist created F-111 for his first solo show at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery: the dimensions of its fifty-nine interlocking panels were determined by the four walls of that particular space, so that the work, once hung, would surround and enclose the viewer. An F-111 fighter-bomber stretches the length of the painting, enveloped and overtaken by oversize images culled mostly from photographs and printed advertisements, including a wallpaper-like floral pattern, an angel food cake, a Firestone tire, light bulbs, a fork stuck in spaghetti, and a beach umbrella superimposed on an atomic blast. With its jumps in scale, its collage-style juxtaposition of image fragments, and its vivid palette, the painting exemplifies Rosenquist’s singular contribution to Pop art. F-111 was painted in the middle of one of the most turbulent decades in US history. The fighter-bomber it depicts was, at the time, in the planning stages, and Rosenquist understood its mission to be as economic as it was military—to create jobs for Americans and support the country’s gross national product. He characterized the imagery of the painting as “a plane flying through the flak of an economy,” with the little girl under the metallic hairdryer as its pilot; he described its underwater diver in more ominous terms, as evocative of humans gasping for air during an atomic holocaust.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

"Painting is probably much more exciting than advertising," Rosenquist has said, "so why shouldn't it be done with that power and gusto, with that impact." Like other Pop artists, Rosenquist is fascinated by commercial and everyday images. He also understands the power of advertising's use of "things larger than life"—he once painted billboards for a living—and even in early abstractions he borrowed the exaggeratedly cheerful palette of the giant signs. His next step was to explore the artistic potential of the billboard's scale and photographic style. Rosenquist generally spikes that style with disorienting fractures and recombinations of images. F-111 becomes still more overwhelming through its particularly enormous size and panoramic shape: it is designed to fill the four walls of a room, engulfing and surrounding the viewer—unlike a billboard, which, despite its magnitude, can be viewed all at once. Also unlike a billboard, F-111 fuses pictures of American prosperity with a darker visual current. A diver's air bubbles are rhymed by a mushroom cloud; a smiling little girl sits under a missilelike hairdryer; a sea of spaghetti looks uncomfortably visceral; and weaving through and around all these images is the F-111 itself, a U.S. Air Force fighter-bomber. Painted during the Vietnam War, F-111 draws disturbing connections between militarism and the consumerist structure of the American economy.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 236.
Medium
Oil on canvas with aluminum, twenty-three sections
Dimensions
10 x 86' (304.8 x 2621.3 cm)
Credit
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alex L. Hillman and Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (both by exchange)
Object number
473.1996.a-w
Copyright
© 2019 James Rosenquist/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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