James Rosenquist Silo 1963–4

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
Silo
Date 1963–4
Medium Oil paint on canvas, wood and Perspex
Dimensions Object: 2870 x 3531 x 562 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1973
Reference
T01829
Not on display

Catalogue entry

James Rosenquist born 1933

T01829 Silo 1963-4

Inscribed '"SILO" | JAMES ROSENQUIST | 1963' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 113 x 139 (287 x 353), together with small blackboard, and wooden and perspex structure, 60 3/4 x 52 x 22 1/8 (154.3 x 132 x 56)
Purchased from the Mayor Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1973
Prov: With Mayor Gallery, London (purchased from the artist 1973)
Exh: James Rosenquist, Green Gallery, New York, January-February 1964 (no catalogue; the first state); James Rosenquist, Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, October-November 1964 (no catalogue; the final state); James Rosenquist, Kunsthalle, Cologne, January-March 1972 (70); Whitney Museum, New York, April-May 1972 (52)
Lit: Max Kozloff, 'New York Letter' in Art International, VIII, 25 April 1964, p.62, first state repr. in colour
Repr: John Rublowsky, Pop Art (London 1965), n.p. in colour (final state); American Pop Art (exh. catalogue), Whitney Museum, New York, April-June 1974, no.82 (not exhibited)

This picture was originally based on part of the 'T-zone' (i.e. taste zone) image from Camel cigarette advertisements. It was shown in its first state in Rosenquist's exhibition at the Green Gallery in January-February 1964 under the title 'Candidate', and was reproduced on the poster announcement. At that time the image consisted mainly of a huge head of a girl, full face, holding a cigarette in one hand, against a red background. Her lips were parted in a dazzling smile. The T-shaped enclosure which stood in front of the painting (and which framed and gave prominence to the area of the mouth and throat) had an illuminated 25 watt light bulb hanging from its top, just above the row of gleaming teeth, while its lower part enclosed a chair with a pan of water beneath it containing five artificial flowers painted in Day-Glo colours. (See the colour reproduction and description of it as shown in the exhibition in Art International, loc. cit.).

Rosenquist said with regard to this work that advertising, especially in the United States, has become a constant bombardment of images, a kind of brainwashing. The chair was like a seat for brainwashing; in fact he even thought of allowing people to sit in it during the exhibition.

As he wrote on 5 January 1974: 'Later that year, I continued to work on it and it became what is now Silo. It was shown at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles in autumn of 1964, therefore, mid-summer 1964 would be the completion of the final state of this work.' The upper part of the picture, from just above the level of the chin, was entirely overpainted in blue, while the T-zone was repainted with a combination of images, a dish rack, a woman's hand pulling off a piece of wax paper and a fuzzy picture of branches and leaves. He also attached a small blackboard to this area. He had previously used a larger section of the same advertising image of a dish rack in another picture of 1964 called 'Dishes', now in the collection of Virginia Wright, Seattle. Instead of being the zone where cigarette smoke is savoured, the woman's nose, mouth and throat become in the final version the place where she chews things up and they become digested, almost fermented - hence the new title 'Silo'. It was originally his intention when overpainting to reduce the picture to the lower zone, but he found in the end that the whole area was still necessary.

De Kooning had previously used the same Camel T-zone advertisement, though in quite a different way, by cutting out the mouth from the advertisement which appeared on the back cover of Time magazine, 17 January 1949, and collaging it on to the face of his 'Study for "Woman"' 1950.

(This note is based partly on information from the artist, 16 October 1974).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.652-3, reproduced p.652

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