Thursday, January 29, 2009

James Rosenquist: Painting is done with a paintbrush

Intellect Seeking a Worm Hole, Oil on canvas with mirror, 66 x 59 inches (167.5 x 149.9 cm), 2007. By James Rosenquist

An HBO film crew was recently on hand for an event at the Miami Art Museum. Their focus-- a lesson by James Rosenquist. Those in attendance observed as Rosenquist turned a blank canvas into a study of color. The 74 year old Pop Art titan, as labeled by the Miami Herald, displayed painting techniques as onlookers-- including 28 art students selected by the youngARTS program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts-- observed the artist in action.
Rosenquist showed students different ways of mixing and applying paint while discussing his paintings. During the event Rosenquist offered advice about painting. At one point he warned students that using ready-made black paint will result in “mud”-- a basic lesson that is often missed in art classrooms. After the lesson Rosenquist answered questions about his career, art, and world issues.
During the event Rosenquist did not shy away from the fact that he is not a fan of computer based art. He stated, “Youngsters want to push a button to create artwork”. He went on to say that painting is, “done with a paintbrush.''. Rosenquist’s opinion comes as no surprise to me. In a 2008 interview I conducted for the Myartspace Blog he stated, “I'm not all that interested in the Internet. I don't use the Internet as a source for my work and I doubt I ever will. This goes for other types of high technology as well-- such as virtual reality. I'm just not interested in it. I guess you could say that I like things simple. I like painting to be simple. It fascinates me to create beautiful paintings with the simplest means. I'm more interested in the way that people paint with sticks, cloth, or brushes instead of high technology.”
Art critics and the media often describe James Rosenquist as a “Pop Art titan”-- the Miami Herald went as far as to call him “one of the last surviving titans of the Pop Art Movement”. I find that interesting because Rosenquist is not exactly fond of the labels. In fact, he stated the following when I asked him if he is comfortable being labeled as a Pop artist in 2008-- “They 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.”
Consider this an open discussion about James Rosenquist, labels that art critics and the media attach to artists, and how the practice of painting is changing-- is it? Is a digital paintbrush just as good as the 'real' thing? What say you?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange


Unknown said...

As a traditional media artist and a digital one I just recently crossed over to 100% digital. I am hear to say that such a remark as "pushing a button to create art" is just as absurd as comparing a computer to a vcr where all one has to do is insert a tape and hit play.

True I am sure there are some out there without traditional art training who love to play with art programs to create what ever they think looks good, but there are thousands of abstract painters I could care less for who did the exact same thing.

The truth of the matter is that this is the time of the "visual artist" in general regardless of what tools they choose. That we have a world wide audience that is glued 24-7 to their computer screens. And as much harsh criticism as pop art received when it was first originated and the impressionists endured decades before them, it's a pretty hypocritical statement to make when approaching any emerging art form.

So he has no use for the internet? Fine by me and thousands of others gathering online every second of every day even if they don't use technology to create the art but only to promote it. The art world has enough competition out there on the web as it is.

Balhatain said...

Thanks for the comment GrimLenZ. I think in many ways digital art is facing the same issues that photographers faced not long ago. A lot of it boils down to people not fully understanding the medium yet. Thus, people assume that anyone can do it and do it well. As always, new generations will embrace new forms of art. The art critics and collectors of tomorrow will 'get it' because they will have been born into it.

Anonymous said...

Not to get off topic, but this reminds me of an entirely different form of expression being affected by technology: recorded music. Not long ago musicians had to book time in a studio to make their recordings, but with the advent of programs like Pro Tools, and there inexpensive consumer-marketed offspring like Garageband, it's easy for almost anyone to make a recording with some small semblance of a "professional" recording.
But does most of it warrant any attention? Perhaps not. It still takes a lot of talent to use such tools and create something original and new. The people who garner attention are the ones who use such technology as a tool, rather than a crutch.
Just like Rosenquist and his paintbrushes, there are still many who prefer the traditional analogue recording studio, and that's fine. But we have to be careful about making generalizations about ways of working that are different from our own.

Lisa Mikulski said...

One is not necessarily better than the other. Both are tools... they are just different tools, different medium, different expression. It's all good.