Pulp Stories II: James Rosenquist & Frank Stella, Monumental works from the Singapore Art Museum Tyler Collection

8 May - 11 July 2009

Pulp Stories II pays tribute to monumental and complex pulp works by American contemporary art giants, James Rosenquist (b.1933) and Frank Stella (b.1936). This exhibition comprises of nine large scale works with Time Dust and The Fountain spanning up to 10 metres. The works are a result of the critical role paper pulp played in the artists’ collaborations with legendary Master Printer, Kenneth E. Tyler (b.1931).

James Rosenquist’s Time Dust is one of the largest prints ever made. Rosenquist says, “The work is about an area in space where leftover hardware is parked. So, the material left up there is, in actuality, a permanent museum where nothing will be affected by wear or tear or erosion. Can one imagine a square-rigger sailboat hanging in space with the sails aloft just hanging there forever? So, in the future we can visit the past in perfect condition.” A leader of the American Pop art movement of the 1960s, Rosenquist first started as a billboard artist climbing scaffolding and painting whiskey bottles bigger than ranch houses. He draws from advertising and mass media iconography to conjure visualisations of contemporary life, enshrining the inflated, luscious objects of commercial-industrial culture. Time Dust consists of 50 odd images, lithographs and screenprints on white paper, routed out then collaged to a densely textured background. Seven large panels of paper each measuring 218(ht) x 152(w) cm were laid out on Tyler Graphics parking lot, and Rosenquist together with eight assistants sprayed eighteen super saturated colours in pulpy particles through a gun ordinarily used for texturing stucco walls to create a rich multi-coloured pulp background resembling asteroids on the loose. Rosenquist said, “With Ken (Tyler), he’d look at you, walk away and the next day he would have devised something to make the new idea work. Nothing would stop him – he would go to any length. He would never say no.”

Frank Stella’s epic print, The Fountain is a pivotal example of his abstract style, signature forms and colours, produced in grand scale. The Fountain takes its title from chapter 85 of the literary classic, Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It describes the majesty of the sperm whale, a colossal beast that dominates the sea with its wondrous breathing apparatus – the spurt of water, hence the title of this episode. The artist found Melville’s text visually inspiring, “I find the prose pictorial in a way – the rhythms and everything are like the type of things that you can do using shapes… a nice, kind of crisp, moving language!” The Fountain sprawling cartography of runaway curves resemble billowing fish nets or flotsam tossed over waves. Stella lets the visual performance flow right off the deckle edges, leaving not a square inch of neutrality or neglect in this vibrant expanse. The Fountain pulls together 67 colours and seven different print processes from three carved woodblocks and 105 intaglio plates, dished out on three sheets of natural kozo fibre paper especially made in Japan for this project. The paper pulp strata of Time Dust and The Fountain present a physical terrain so dense and luxurious it defies conventional notion of steamroller prints.

This is an exceptional opportunity for the Singapore public not only to view but to learn of this impressive national treasure from the Singapore Art Museum Tyler Collection. Tate Modern in London, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, The National Gallery of Australia and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis are the other institutions which hold the Tyler Archive.