James Rosenquist, Pop Art Pioneer, Dies at 83


James Rosenquist, who helped define Pop Art in its 1960s heyday with his boldly scaled painted montages of commercial imagery, died on Friday in New York City. He was 83 years old.
His wife, Mimi Thompson, said Mr. Rosenquist died at his home after a long illness.
Like his contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Mr. Rosenquist developed a powerful graphic style in the early 1960s that traditionalists reviled and a broad public enthusiastically embraced.
The Pop artists took for their subject matter images and objects from the mass media and popular culture, including advertising, comic books and consumer products. They also employed techniques that until then had been associated primarily with commercial and industrial methods of production, like silk screening or, in Mr. Rosenquist’s case, billboard painting.
Mr. Rosenquist himself drew on his experience painting immense movie billboards above Times Square and a Hebrew National sign in Brooklyn.
It was while working in New York as a sign painter by day and an abstract painter by night that he had the idea to import the giant-scale, broadly painted representational pictures from outdoor advertising into the realm of fine art.
“Was importing the method into art a bit of a cheap trick?” the critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker in 2003 on the occasion of a ballyhooed retrospective of Mr. Rosenquist’s work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. “So were Warhol’s photo silk-screening and Lichtenstein’s limning of panels from comic strips.
“The goal in all cases,” Mr. Schjeldahl added, “was to fuse painting aesthetics with the semiotics of media-drenched contemporary reality. The naked efficiency of anti-personal artmaking defines classic Pop. It’s as if someone were inviting you to inspect the fist with which he simultaneously punches you.”
Mr. Rosenquist drew inspiration, too, from the tradition of Surrealistic collage, as well as from the montage designs of contemporary advertising, to create disjunctive compositions of cropped and fragmented images of cars, movie stars, food products and domestic appliances.
Though painted by hand in a lucidly simplified realistic style, the juxtapositions of images remain mysterious. The paintings could be viewed both as critiques of modern consumerism and as glimpses into the collective American consciousness.
“The art’s formal ingenuity can jump out at you as forcefully as the grill of a Ford or a fragment of Marilyn Monroe’s lips or the cap from a Pepsi bottle or a stack of Fiesta dishes in a dish rack,” Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times, also in 2003.
Mr. Rosenquist’s paintings rarely contained overt political messages, but his best-known work, the enormous "F-111," was made in 1964 and 1965 in part as a protest against American militarism. In it, the image of a modern fighter plane stretching 86 feet across a grid of 51 canvas and aluminum panels is interrupted by images of a colossal tire, a beach umbrella, a mushroom cloud, spaghetti and tomato sauce, and a little girl under a chrome hair dryer that resembles a warhead.
Mr. Rosenquist meant to sell the painting as separate panels, but the collector Robert Scull bought it whole and kept it that way. It is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
James Albert Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, N.D., on Nov. 29, 1933, and grew up in various towns in Minnesota and Ohio before his parents settled in Minneapolis in 1944. His father, Louis, was an airplane mechanic, among other things. His mother, Ruth, an amateur painter who could also fly a plane, encouraged his interests in art, and he won a scholarship to study at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts when he was in junior high school.
Mr. Rosenquist studied art at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954, and during his summer vacation in 1953 he worked for a contractor painting gas station signs, storage tanks and grain silos.
After receiving an associate degree in studio art, he went to work for a billboard company painting advertisements for movies, liquor and soft drinks. One assignment, during the Davy Crockett craze that swept the United States on the heels of a Walt Disney mini-series, was to paint eight-foot-wide coonskin caps.
In 1955, Mr. Rosenquist received a one-year scholarship to the Art Students League in New York, arriving with $350 in his pocket, he said. He studied there with Will Barnet, Edwin Dickinson and George Grosz, among others.
He also began frequenting the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village, a gathering place for painters and poets. “There was Bill de Kooning, Franz Kline,” Mr. Rosenquist told The Times in 2003.
After leaving school the next year, he held a series of odd jobs before returning to sign painting, joining the sign painters union and working mostly for the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation, which painted some of the largest billboards in the world.
“Much of the aesthetic of my work comes from doing commercial art,” Mr. Rosenquist said. “I painted pieces of bread, Arrow shirts, movie stars. It was very interesting. Before I came to New York I wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel. I thought this is where the school of mural painting exists. You were painting things up close, like big chocolate cakes. In Brooklyn, I painted Schenley whiskey bottles two stories high, 147 of them over every candy store.”
He continued the work until 1960, when he quit for good after two co-workers fell from a scaffold and died.
That year he rented the former studio of Agnes Martin at 3-5 Coenties Slip, a building on the East River in Lower Manhattan where Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns and Jack Youngerman also had studios.
Until then, Mr. Rosenquist had been making paintings consisting of allover fields of brushmarks in the spirit of Abstract Expressionism. Now, influenced in part by the works of Robert Rauschenberg and Mr. Johns, whom he had gotten to know, he began to use his sign painting skills.
During the course of his career, Mr. Rosenquist experimented with sculptural assemblage and environmental installations, and he sometimes attached three-dimensional objects to his pictures. But he remained mainly a representational painter. In later years, some of his paintings approached a kind of futuristic, kaleidoscopic abstraction, but the play with different sorts of images and illusions persisted.
Mr. Rosenquist’s first marriage, to Mary Lou Adams, ended in divorce. He is survived by Ms. Thompson, his second wife; his son John, from his first marriage, his daughter Lily, from his second marriage, and a grandson, Oscar.
Mr. Rosenquist’s first solo exhibition, at the Green Gallery in 1962, sold out. That same year his work was included in a survey of new art at Sidney Janis Gallery called “International Exhibition of the New Realists” that put what would soon come to be known as Pop Art on the map of contemporary consciousness.
In 1965, he showed “F-111” in his first exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, which by then represented most of major Pop artists.
The painting was subsequently exhibited at the Jewish Museum and then taken on a tour or Europe. Besides the show at the Guggenheim in 2003, Mr. Rosenquist had museum retrospectives at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 1968; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1972; and the Denver Art Museum in 1985. He had an exhibition at the Haunch of Venison Gallery in London, now defunct, in 2006, and a solo show at the Acquavella Galleries in New York in 2012. His most recent exhibition opened last fall at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris. And the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, will host an exhibition of his work later this year.
For many years he worked out of a loft building on Chambers Street that he bought in 1977 for $120,000. In 1978, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts, a group that advises the National Endowment for the Arts.
In later years he spent much of his time in Aripeka, Fla., where he kept a home, an office and studio space. A catastrophic fire destroyed the properties in 2009.
William Acquavella, the New York art dealer, said that Mr. Rosenquist lost a significant amount of work in the fire.
“He just rebounded from it,” he said. “Another guy would have had a tougher time bouncing back. But he enjoyed working, he enjoyed creating things, and he enjoyed painting.”
Mr. Rosenquist also had homes in Bedford, N.Y., and Miami. Recently, he had been spending most of his time in New York City, Ms. Thompson said.
In 2009, Mr. Rosenquist published an autobiography, “Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art,” written with David Dalton. Reviewing it in The New York Times, Dwight Garner called it “a ruddy and humble book, lighted from within by the author’s plainspoken, blue-collar charm.”
In the book, Mr. Rosenquist talked about the movement he helped launch.
“Pop Art. I’ve never cared for the term, but after half a century of being described as a Pop artist I’m resigned to it,” he said. “Still, I don’t know what Pop Art means, to tell you the truth.”

Eli Rosenberg contributed reporting.

Dick Gautier dead at 85

'Get Smart' actor Dick Gautier dead at 85

Published January 16, 2017 

Actor Dick Gautier, who gained fame playing an Elvis-like singer in the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie" and went on to play Hymie the Robot on TV's "Get Smart," has died. He was 85.
Gautier died Friday at an assisted living facility in Los Angeles County, his publicist Harlan Boll told The Associated Press.
Gautier, who started out as a standup comic, was nominated for a Tony for his stage turn as Conrad Birdie.
"He was proud to be amongst those nominated for the Tony" for the role in 1961, Boll said in a statement.
Boll said "it was when he played the character of Hymie the robot on Get Smart (a Mel Brooks and Buck Henry production) that he gained more notoriety than ever."
In addition to his popular role on "Get Smart," Gautier appeared in films including "Divorce, American Style," ''Billy Jack Goes To Washington" and "Fun With Dick And Jane."
Gautier, who was also a cartoonist, worked as a voice actor for cartoons including "Transformers" and "Smurfs."
"Throughout his life, Dick was always painting, sculpting and drawing, Boll said. "One of the things he became particularly good at was caricature."

He is survived by three children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

So sixties

Summer in the 1960s

New clues emerge in a cold-case killing possibly linked to Manson family murders

 Los Angeles police are seeking two men in connection with the slaying of a 19-year-old Canadian woman who was stabbed to death in 1969, just a few miles from the most infamous of the Manson family killings.
Sketches of the men were released Friday by the Los Angeles Police Department and are based on new information collected from a witness in Montreal.
The drawings show how the men might have looked in 1969, when the body of the then-unidentified woman — stabbed 150 times in the upper torso and neck — was discovered by a child on Mulholland Drive, not far from the Benedict Canyon home where actress Sharon Tate and four others had been stabbed to death a few months earlier, in August 1969.
The Canadian woman’s slaying has long been suspected of being tied to the Manson family murders, but as of April of this year, police still had no concrete evidence linking the killings.
Detectives began reinvestigating the killing in 2003, after a retired  LAPD cold-case investigator turned up a DNA sample, said LAPD Det. Luis Rivera. That sample, along with photographs of the victim, led investigators to her sister, and eventually, a positive ID was made.
Little was known about the young woman, Reet Jurvetson, after she traveled to Los Angeles in 1969. She came to meet a friend named “John or Jean,” Rivera said. She initially kept in sporadic touch with her family. As time passed without contact, her relatives became concerned, but they never filed a missing person’s report, he said.
Her sister, Anne, the only remaining relative in Jurvetson’s immediate family, recently created a website to help solve her sister’s killing. She posted photos of Reet as a teenager: celebrating her church confirmation, lounging on a sofa, smiling in a family portrait.
She describes the young woman as adventurous but naive, part of an Estonian refugee family who fled to Canada during World War II.
“Attempts were made to reach her, but they proved fruitless,” she wrote. “Initially, we believed that Reet was probably in search of more autonomy, and therefore we waited for her to get in touch with us.”
As years passed, Anne said, the family imagined her sister had made a new life for herself. No one suspected the young woman had been killed, she said.
When Anne found out about her sister’s slaying, it was “devastating,” she wrote.
The witness in Montreal provided new details in July about the friend named John or Jean.
The witness remembers meeting Reet Jurvetson and the man at a cafe in Montreal, police said. The witness also provided information on an associate, a shorter man with a Beatles-type haircut who might also have been named Jean.
Authorities said Friday that Anne Jurvetson had recently found a postcard  sent by her sister about two weeks before she was killed.
Dated Oct. 31, 1969, it read:
“Dear Mother and Father, The weather is nice and the people are kind. I have a nice little apartment. I go frequently to the beach. Please write to me. Hugs, Reet.”
The postcard was sent from an apartment in Hollywood. The building, on Melrose Avenue, used to be the Paramount Hotel, but it  was demolished in 1989 and replaced with a new structure.
Detectives initially suspected the Manson family of Jurvetson’s killing  because their other victims had been stabbed to death, Rivera said, and Jurvetson’s death occurred about the time of the cult killings.
Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi said in his 1974 book “Helter Skelter” that he believed Jane Doe No. 59 — as Jurvetson was then known — was killed because she had witnessed another suspected Manson family slaying, the death of John Phillip Haught.
Investigators initially believed Haught died playing Russian roulette in Venice in November 1969. But Simon Wells, author of the Manson biography “Coming Down Fast,” found out that Manson family members were present when Haught died.
Manson and his followers eventually were convicted of killing nine people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969. Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war that he believed was prophesied in the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”
Last year, LAPD investigators interviewed Manson at Corcoran State Prison, where he is incarcerated, but Manson did not provide any additional information, according to Capt. Billy Hayes, commander of the Robbery Homicide Division.
“Talking to Charlie is like talking to a wall,” Hayes said.
Prosecutors and Manson scholars have always believed the group was responsible for slayings beyond the nine for which they were convicted.
Manson is eligible for parole in 2027. Most of his followers remain jailed or have died.

60's mish mash

Woody Allen meets the Queen, 1966

Washington -- A bomb exploded in a women's restroom in the Pentagon. The radical Weathermen claimed credit  celebrate Ho Chi Min

Vintage Halifax - 1960 A telephone booth is filled with snow during a storm

View of Boston skyline, circa 1964,  Boston Redevelopment Authority photographs,

Two women riding with the Hells Angels hang out at a bar in 1965

June 7, 1965 – U.S. Navy frogmen recover astronauts Jim McDivitt and Ed White after the Gemini 4 spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic.

The Wilson Avenue Ravenswood “L” Station was to be torn down in 1963. This picture was taken on Dec. 12, 1963

The Strip. Las Vegas, 1969. View from a room at the Sahara, looking south at Riviera, Stardust and the Frontier.

The Merry Pranksters

The Electric Circus,19-25 St. Marks Place, NYC. Mural by Louis J. Delsarte, 1967


Students riots in Paris Toppled cars are seen in Rue Gay-Lussac in Paris, France, on May 11, 1968.

John Tuohy's Year One, 1955: Jack Davis

John Tuohy's Year One, 1955: Jack Davis: Jack Davis has passed away. While he is rightly remembered for his MAD era celebrity caricatures, the piece that has the most profound per...