James Rosenquist (1933 – 2017) began his career as a commercial sign painter. Working for the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation, he produced vibrant representations of consumer goods until committing to a career as an artist in 1960. Renting a studio in Coenties Slip on the waterfront of the Financial District, he began to make paintings that combined a well-known, slick advertising vocabulary with a wry ambivalence about the rampant consumerism he saw all around him.
The Green Gallery on West 57th Street presented Rosenquest’s first solo exhibition in January 1962. Organized by the influential gallerist and dealer Richard Bellamy, the show promptly sold all of the works exhibited. Sightseeing, completed that same year, was inspired by a tourist bus Rosenquest saw while painting billboards in Times Square. Juxtaposing sight and see in large block letters with images of roses, and a sheet of broken glass, the work challenges, the separation between everyday habits of looking, and the supposedly more refined practice viewing art.
Photographed in The Jewish Museum in Manhattan as Part of the Exhibit New York: 1962 – 1964, on View Through January 8th, 2003.