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June 24 Art Minute: James Rosenquist, Highway Trust

Art Minute, Art of the Week, toledo museum of art
James Rosenquist (American, 1933-2017) Highway Trust. Oil on canvas, with casters, 1977. Private Collection, courtesy Acquavella Galleries

With its billboard format and mass-advertising imagery, James Rosenquist’s Highway Trust underscores the automobile’s key role as a signifier of the mythicized, modern American lifestyle. An artist who frequently incorporated cars as a symbol of American middle-class life into his compositions, Rosenquist here uses a gleaming silver car window as a viewfinder for a magnified and cropped image from a magazine ad for macaroni and cheese that features slow-pouring Velveeta. Highway Trust combines car and food imagery to present a wry commentary on the persuasive power of advertising and its idealized visions of domesticity. At the same time, the painting’s components slyly allude to the erotic activities associated with the automobile

This work is currently on view in the exhibition Life Is a Highway: Art and American Car Culture.