James Rosenquist’s House of Fire: A Masterwork of American Pop Art

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    James Rosenquist (American, born 1933). 'House of Fire,' 1989. Pressed colored paper pulp with lithographic collage on TGL handmade and Rives BFK papers. Purchase, 2015 (2015‑20‑01).

July 07, 2016 - October 02, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

Last year, Curator of Contemporary Art Jay Jensen and Curator of European and American Art Theresa Papanikolas took a good hard look at the museum’s holdings in modern and contemporary American art. It was a first step in a master plan to build a world-class, distinctive collection in this area. After combing through the museum’s vaults and  galleries, they identified a weak spot—1960s Pop Art. Yes, that singular moment in American art history—when art, advertising, and popular culture merged to bring us Andy Warhol’s portraits of celebrity, Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-book riffs, and Claes Oldenburg’s hysterically “soft” industrial objects—is largely underrepresented in the museum’s permanent collection.

To counter this gap, Jensen and Papanikolas acquired James Rosenquist’s iconic House of Fire, which was brought into the museum's collection in December 2015. In this massive lithograph/collage that Rosenquist made in collaboration with Tyler Graphics, after his eponymous painting now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ordinary objects become unexpectedly menacing: a bag of groceries defies gravity, a glowing bucket sits within and outside an open window, and lipsticks align, seductively and tauntingly, at a narrow angle with the picture plane. A metaphor for the allure of advertising, its promise of absolute satisfaction, and the inconsistencies required to create the fantasy, House of Fire is both a wonderful example of Rosenquist’s work and an important Pop acquisition.

It goes on view at the museum, together with prints from the permanent collection by Jim Dine*, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol, starting July 7.

*Learn about curator Theresa Papanikolas' reasons for pairing Rosenquist with Dine on the blog.