Visual Arts

Pop Art giant James Rosenquist’s work influenced generations from New York to Miami

Artist James Rosenquist in front of his art work on display at Art Miami. Basel week kicks into gear with the opening of Art Miami and other fairs on Dec. 4, 2012.
Artist James Rosenquist in front of his art work on display at Art Miami. Basel week kicks into gear with the opening of Art Miami and other fairs on Dec. 4, 2012. Miami Herald File

James Rosenquist, a leading figure of the Pop Art movement whose influential work spanned the globe from New York to Miami to Europe, died late Friday at his home in New York City, according to a close family friend in South Florida.

Rosenquist, 83, started his career as a billboard painter and developed into one of the seminal artists of the 1960s by adapting modern images of advertising and culture to his large canvases. He was known for his inimitable style of creating visual stories.

“He was a poet but his language was paint,” said Marvin Ross Friedman, of Coral Gables, a lawyer, art collector and longtime friend of Rosenquist’s. “He made pictures of life that passed through the prism of his mind.

He was a poet but his language was paint. He made pictures of life that passed through the prism of his mind.

Marvin Ross Friedman, art collector and longtime friend of Rosenquist’s

“For 70 years he enriched our lives and our cultural landscape,” Friedman said Saturday. “He was one of the most influential artists of our time.”

While he achieved acclaim in New York, Rosenquist lived and painted for decades at his home and studio in Aripeka, near Tampa, where a fire destroyed his studio in 2009. He also owned a home in Coral Gables.

For years his paintings were featured at Art Basel, Miami’s contemporary art show that has become a celebrated hub for international collectors.

Rosenquist also donated two artworks by himself and his close friend, the late Robert Rauschenberg, to the Miami Art Museum. They are now part of the collection at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Rosenquist, who influenced generations of painters, also received an honorary award from the National YoungArts Foundation in Miami.

Friedman noted that the late, legendary art critic Robert Hughes, known to be stingy with his praise, once described Rosenquist, who was born in North Dakota, as “America's greatest living history painter.”

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