Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine:
James Rosenquist was a first-generation, first-rank Pop Artist. He got there first and fast. In 1960, Rosenquist, a former sign-painter (as was Warhol and backdrop painter Gerhard Richter), was making neo-Dada semi-abstraction. He got fed up, saying, “Whatever I did, my art wasn’t going to look like everyone else’s.” In a sensational stylistic turnaround, and the equivalent of inventing fire, Rosenquist went from his generic nonrepresentational work to making, in one try, the seven-by-seven foot black-and-white, photographically based realist painting Zone. Even today you can see how it was a new visual-painterly being on earth. A fragmented painted collage of what looks like a woman from advertising and a cut-up grid of some drips or liquid, Zone looks absolutely like advertising, and at the same time, it is not advertising. Thus it is neither a known idea of advertising or of painting. Zone becomes what Donald Judd referred to as aspecific object — it is neither one thing or another, but something new.Whatever he did, Rosenquist’s work appeared brand-new back then as it does now. He influenced several generations of artists who looked to popular culture and employed other-than-art techniques.
In this way, Rosenquist emerged instantaneously and fully formed from the culture. Along with other Pop Artists like Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — and before them Rauschenberg and Johns — Rosenquist blew the doors off art history. All of these artists showed with super-gallerist Leo Castelli — who had only opened five years before.