The enormous sandwich and pack of cigarettes in Still Life Number 36 (1964) reflect Tom Wesselmann’s nonhierarchical approach to subject matter and technique. He believed that anything could be art, including the ordinary consumer items that fill our pockets and kitchen cabinets. In 1962, Wesselmann began a series of large-scale still lifes that incorporated fragments of discarded commercial billboards, which he initially scavenged from trash cans but later procured in new, pristine condition directly from advertising agencies. The larger-than-life proportions of the objects in Still Life Number 36 at first seem to celebrate the surfeit of commercial goods in America’s postwar consumer culture. Yet the layers of collage and painted areas bring together incongruent depictions of reality, creating tensions in the composition that Wesselmann described as “reverberation.
Wayne Thiebaud’s interest in investigating the properties of each medium lead him to create a series of works of the same subject using different techniques. In the pictured watercolor of Nine Jelly Apples (1964) he used a wide range of pink and purple hues to suggest the luminous surface of the confection. In the black ink version, he relied instead on the vivid dark and light contrast to emphasize shininess. In the pencil version, however, the exacting precision suggests the brittle surface of hardened sugar.
While living and working in Paris, from 1948 to 1954, Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015) developed an abstract vocabulary of line, form, and color and began is career-long investigation into how figure and ground are perceived in nonrepresentational painting. He became interested in the way that painting engages with the architectural space that it inhabits; rather than attempting to simulate three-dimensional perspective in a composition, he instead considered the wall to be a kind of ‘ground’ and the painting itself a figure on it.
In Orange Green (1964), made the following decade when he was back in New York, he established the figure-ground relationship on the canvas itself through the careful balance of two areas of color: the truncated orange egg-shape is the figure and the bright green color that surrounds it functions as its background.
Irving Penn purchased his first of many twin-lens Rolleiflex cameras in 1938. He acquired this one in 1964 and used it and other similar models for portrait sittings for the next four decades. The camera is topped with a modified Hasselblad chimney viewfinder and mounted on a Tiltall pan/tilt head above a table tripod of the artist’s own design.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
The scale model of Progresslandrefers to the General Electric pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, whose themes were “Progress through Electric Power” and “The Wonders of Atomic Energy.”
In a brochure from the time, Progresslandis described as “a large graceful building with a curving 200-foot-wide dome, supported by a unique pattern of swirling circular pipes. It is eye-catching by day . . . and dazzlingly colorful by night.”
Video of Colorful, Illuminated Dome
Progresslandfeatured a Walt Disney presentation of electricity’s history and future, as well as actual nuclear fusion first hand. In Richard Rush’s carefully crafted model, made around the time of the fair, we can today appreciate the hope imbued into the temporary architecture, which celebrated a golden era of optimism in technical innovation and scientific exploration.
In 1967, the attraction was moved to Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim, California as the Carousel of Progress, remaining there until 1973.
Photographed at the Chamber Boutique on 23rd Street, West of 10th Avenue.
It’s always fun to discover a new work by Pop artist /sculptress Marisol (AKA Maria Sol Escobar, born 1930 in Venezuela) when we are out on an art safari. Her pieces, which are like 3D portraits, can be found not only at the Whitney but in the permanent collections of The Met and MOMA as well, and they are instantly recognizable.
Equal parts painting, collage, carving, and assemblage, Women and Dog(1964) was inspired by sources as diverse as its constituent materials. Marisol worked in New York during the emergence of Pop Art in the early 1960s and was one of few women associated with the movement. This sculpture reflects the fascination with everyday life that was fundamental to Pop, and yet its larger-than-life, totemic forms and the multi-faced profiles of the figures belie influences from Pre-Colombian and Native American folk art to analytic Cubism.
The trio of females strolling with a child and a dog seem to suggest Marisol’s interest in social norms and conventions relating to women in society, but the composition is ambiguous. Elements of the women’s clothing are colorfully whimsical, yet they are literally “boxed in” by their garments, and their faces are marked by a deadpan impenetrability. The women, and perhaps the child too, are self-portraits — indeed, a photograph of the artist is applied directly onto the face of one of the figures — suggesting a fluid inhabitation of different female roles and identities.
James Rosenquist’s Volunteer is dated 1964, but, according to Rosenquist, [it was] finished shortly before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I think one of the coolest things about this painting is the use of fragmented symbols to depict the American life in the mid 20th century. The washing machine in the upper right speaks to a viewer as a symbol of American technological progress. The man in the business suit speaks as a symbol of how the American professional was dressing during this time. The ice cream speaks of American’s desire for “gustatory pleasure” (James Rosenquist. Volunteer. 1964. Art Institute of Chicago).
I like this painting because of how it can be interpreted in many different ways. My interpretation is that the artist is being cynical in this piece, depicting things that Americans were concerned with in the era of the mid 1960s. It is interesting to see how Rosenquist interpreted American culture at the time, symbolizing technological advancements, personal appearance, and personal pleasure being the main concerns of Americans at the time, concerns that are still on the top of the list amongst Americans.
The puzzle pieces with a piece missing are also an important aspect of the work. I found no insight into why they exist on the work, so I formed my own opinions. I believe that the missing puzzle piece is the artist separating himself from the mold of American culture he illustrates in this piece. He wants to break the mold as an artist and not fit in to the stereotype that he has depicted in Volunteer.
Many of Rosenquist’s other works have an underlying cynical message to them. Some depicted war machines, most often airplanes, representing his dislike for the war and global tension happening at that time. From my research, the most cynical and interesting part of the picture is Rosenquist’s image of his own palm which stands out past all of the other images. According the Rosenquist, the palm cynically represents “the hand that volunteers”. I see this being cynical, but at the same time pretty spot on. In my opinion, the artist volunteers his time to all who will view his work and will use it to interpret messages about their life and what they view important in it.
Rosenquist is telling us that modern technology, flashy self appearance, and delicious self indulgence are not bad things in and of themselves, but when put upon a pedestal and made the most important things in our lives, we lose grasp on the true meaning of life. We need to separate ourselves from the mold of society, the mold that tells us that bigger is better, only the good looking make it in life, etc, etc. We need to start living as human beings who help each other no matter what.
Volunteer By James Rosenquist is a very interesting piece of modern art, one that challenges us to use the painting as a mirror, and reflect upon ourselves when we look at it. Seeing how we fit the mold he has characterized, and how we can ultimately break out if it.
— Frank D’Antonio
Photographed By Gail at the Museum of Modern Art in March of 2014 NYC while on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago.