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It Speaks to Me: William Leavitt on James Rosenquist's 'Waves' at MOCA

May 25, 2011 | 11:35 am


I've been going to MOCA often for my show, and this painting of a Cyclops-like head caught my attention. What Rosenquist is doing here on one level is pretty obvious: a guy is in an embrace with a woman, and he's thinking about her skirt. But she's not shown, only her hands. And instead of a thought bubble, it's a thought rectangle — not above his head, but in his head. Also, he's represented only in pink, the color of lipstick, while her green skirt and creamy legs are in full color in the screen of his mind. This twangy color  relationship contributes to the mood of unease in the painting. Plus, when you get up close and see that the ”waves” are made of bailing twine threaded through the canvas, it adds to the feeling of tension.

--Artist William Leavitt, as told to Jori Finkel

Image: James Rosenquist's Waves, 1962, Oil on canvas, 56 x 77 in; Art © James Rosenquist/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, from the Panza Collection.