James Rosenquist (1933 - 2017)
The Flame Still Dances on Leo's Book, 1997; Lithograph on Arches cover paper; Numbered LXI/XC and titled "The flame still dances on Leos book" lower left; Signed James Rosenquist and dated 1997 lower right; Published by Noblet Serigraphie, Inc., New York; Size - Sheet 37 x 27"; Unframed.
"I decided to make pictures of fragments, images that would spill off the canvas instead of recede in to it like a medicine cabinet. I wanted to find images that were in 'nether-nether-land': things that were a little out of style but hadn't reached the point of nostalgia." - James Rosenquist
The American artist James Rosenquist earned his living as a billboard painter from 1957-1960 and this is often sited as one of the artist's inspirations, as his former job relates to scale and size of some of his most famous works. Although Rosenquist is usually grouped in with the Pop Artists, he does not like this classification. He has said, "They [art critics] 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."
Rosenquist is known for taking fragmented and odd images and then combining, overlapping, and/or placing them in unusual orientations in order to create a visual story line. In many cases the original derivation of the image can not be determined, so that the viewer is left seeing familiar features of an object but not completely able to determine what the object was originally. It is this ability, to organize and then synthesize into new compositions that has made Rosenquist
one of the greatest artists working today.
Leo Castelli (1907-1999) was an Italian-American art dealer whose New York Gallery showcased contemporary art for five decades. Among the art movements showed were Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Op Art, Color Field, Hard-edge painting, Lyrical Abstraction, Minimal Art , Conceptual Art, and Neo-expressionism. He gave Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Stella their first one man shows. Castelli had in his stable the following historically significant artists: Larry Poons, Lee Bontecou, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Cy Twombly, Ronald Davis, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Joseph Kosuth.
"The Flame Still Dances on Leo's Book," 1997 was one of nine prints that were commissioned by Leo Castelli's son Jean-Christophe to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Leo Castelli Gallery and as a ninetieth birthday present for his father. The artists chosen to participate all were strongly associated with the Castelli Gallery at some point in their career and included: Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Kosuth, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Edward Ruscha, and Bruce Nauman. The edition size of the resulting portfolio of nine prints corresponded to Leo Castelli's birthday in 1997 when he turned 90 years old. The first two portfolios were presented to Leo Castelli, with the first being a birthday gift and the second being displayed in the Castelli Gallery. The vast majority of the other 88 sets were given by Jean-Christophe to major museums and institutions around the world; making individual prints from the portfolios extremely rare.
"The Flame Still Dances on Leo's Book," is a large and extremely well executed work of art. It has as it's central focus an anthropomorphic flame, complete with long and wild smoke hair, that is dancing on the Book of Life of Leo Castelli. This work was created for the occasion of Leo Castelli's ninetieth birthday, so the book is Roman numeral dated XC for 90. A rare and exceptionally well composed work by James Rosenquist, and a great addition to any art collection.
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