James Rosenquist (1933-2017)
Broome Street Trucks After Herman Melville
Oil on linen
Overall: 72 1/8 × 72 1/8 × 3 3/8 in. (183.2 × 183.2 × 8.6 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© James Rosenquist/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
James Rosenquist’s 6-foot-square canvas Broome Street Trucks After Herman Melville depicts a cropped, close-up image of a red 1950s GMC truck. Although a seemingly straightforward representation, certain aspects of the painting are strangely abstracted: details are generalized, reflections are empty, and, inexplicably, the color of the image shifts to yellow in the lower half, where the forms become even more liquid and diffuse. A small, separate canvas attached to the middle of the windshield disrupts the painting’s surface and slightly fractures the image. In the early 1960s, Rosenquist’s subjects (cars, jet fighters, food and cosmetic products) and technical methods—such as magnifying objects and removing traces of his hand, both skills honed in his previous career as a billboard painter—located him in the then-emerging Pop art movement. Yet his defiance of pictorial convention, as in Broome Street Trucks After Herman Melville, often frustrates interpretation, and his paintings remain among the most hermetic of those associated with Pop.