Art Commentary

The lethal but astounding technology of F-111 fighter jet, stretching the full length of the work – from the deeply treaded tyre and the crater-like cake decorated with its ready-mix nutrients, past the diabolically sweet childish face of a little girl in a hair dryer shaped like the nose-cone of a jet and on to a rolling sea of canned-orange spaghetti. The content of Rosenquist’s “F-111” reflects on the American society who was on a suicidal course with its mindless consumerism and military-industrial power.

“It summed up Rosenquist’s vision of America as a flawed and self destructive Eden, a paradise based on exaggerated and obsessive consumption of images and things,” As Robert Hughes put it.

F-111 was Rosenquist’s personal reaction to the ideas of mass media and communication. The painting is overloaded with a discharge of images, which reflects on the mindless consumerism and the armed forces implemented in America in the 1960’s. Due to the influence of the Vietnam War many pop artists reflected on the American military as motivation to depict America’s unsteady future. Emblems of every day experience blot out the sleek fighter jet in “F-111”. Rosenquist is stating that whilst these planes are bombing Korea, and a war is being fought, every day life continues. It hasn’t been halted by the horrendousness death and destruction, which perhaps suggests greed. He is also possibly stating that the nations mind isn’t focused on what matters, reality.

Since the F-111 had minimal impact on its intended industry, death and destruction, we can now find the painting would also seem to ridicule the eventual ineffectiveness of technology. Lichtenstein, for example, painted belligerent yet tasteful images of dogfights, explosions and the essence of air-to-air combat (the infamous “wham” for example). This was a play on the folly within America’s supreme military industry. How something that has cost millions of dollars to build, money that could be better spent on the debilitating derelict boulevards and the underprivileged society, can be destroyed with the click of a button. “I pressed the fire control…and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky,” says the pilot in section A of Lichtenstein’s “wham”.

It is obvious that Lichtenstein and Rosenquist have anti war elements in their work. But the antiwar significance isn’t the main or only focus. Lichtenstein, with his stylish abstract dots and cartoonist insight creates a technique that entices the viewer using commercial fundamentals, for example comic books. He was also a feminist painter, and the mass consumerism and anti war elements is less, if at all, noticeable in other works.

Rosenquist on the other hand, has a lot more war reference with his most significant painting “F-111”. However it seems to focus more on America’s stance in commerce commerciality. Using things like canned spaghetti and objects of everyday use Rosenquist accentuates the meaning of America’s diverse fluctuation in marketable goods and how they are of little meaning when it comes to a war or fallout of some description.

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