Flamingo Capsule

James Rosenquist1970/1970

Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao

Throughout his career, Rosenquist's work has registered a fascination with advanced technology and scientific phenomena, especially in relation to space and the cosmos. The heady days of early American space exploration—already prominently alluded to in F-111—are the subject of Flamingo Capsule, which commemorates the three astronauts who died in a flash fire onboard Apollo 1 during a 1967 training session. In the artist's description, the composition suggests "fire in a contained space" and "objects floating around in the capsule." Set against a field of red and yellow are the crumpled foil of a uniform emblazoned with the American flag, a twisted and distorted food bag, and the arc of a balloon floating through the air. Monumental in scale, the work comprises four canvas panels with aluminized Mylar panels attached to either end; these end panels reflect the painted surface, extending the whirling composition beyond the confines of the canvas. While the painting references a specific historical event, its isolation, juxtaposition, and enlargement of objects to billboard-size proportions results in an enigmatic quality typical of much of Rosenquist's work.

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