James Rosenquist first moved from North Dakota to New York in 1955 after winning a scholarship to the Art Students League. There he met Jasper Johns, Robert Rauchenburg, Robert Indiana, and Claes Oldenburg, all of whom would be associated with Pop Art.
Rosenquist's use of billboard painting techniques and collaged image fragments in his paintings began in 1960. The following year, visitors to his studio included Richard Bellamy, who was opening the Green Gallery and who would sell Rosenquist's first works, and Leo Castelli, his subsequent dealer. His first solo exhibition took place at the Green Gallery in 1962, the same year that he was part of The New Realist exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Rosenquist was moving into the inner circle of the New York scene.
He describes the sixties as one long party. "I'd go to a party and see Henry Geldzahler and Andy Warhol, and they'd say, 'Are you going to the next party? And I'd say, 'I think so. But you didn't know if they were invited, and they didn't know if you were invited, and sometimes no one knew where the party was. But somehow you'd end up there, and at the next party, and at the one after that."
At the time LIFE Magazine did a number of stories about artists and this exposure contributed to their rising recognition. In this LIFE article, Rosenquist is pictured in the studio with his 1962 painting Silver Skies.
Text: Cathy Busby