Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Artist Adolph Rosenblatt Captures Essence of Everyday People in Remarkable Clay Sculptures

Moments and Markers: An Adolph Rosenblatt Retrospective
Jewish Museum Milwaukee, WI
June 16 – August 27th

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Adolph Rosenblatt    (in front of )   My Balcony   terra cotta clay, acrylic paint, wood      1997

The works of artist Adolph Rosenblatt will be featured in a retrospective at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee in Wisconsin where he resided since 1966.  Recently passed away at 83 years of age, Rosenblatt’s exhibition will include paintings, drawings, bronze cast works, ceramic works, sculptural tableaus and large-scale installations. Rosenblatt is best known for his expressionistic painted ceramic figures portrayed in daily life – at a lunch counter, in the bleachers of a baseball stadium, a movie theater, a Chinese restaurant, the Port Authority, an elementary school as well as around a swimming pool in Florida where the artist and his family spent vacations. Having studied under the famous color theorist Josef Albers at Yale, Rosenblatt began his art career as a painter in New York City before becoming a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Rosenblatt’s flat expressionistic paintings became three-dimensional sculpture when his layers of paint gradually became thicker and thicker until naturally moving the work into the 3-D realm.  He once commented:

“My work excites me..I keep my eyes clear and look a lot, I’m always seeing and making associations…. When we accept things as being ‘everyday’, we avoid them, we no longer see them…My point is to make myself conscious of them, and to help others become conscious of them.”

In order to create his work, Rosenblatt had the ‘subjects’ for his work either come to the studio where they sat for him for several hours at a time, or he went to where they were and sculpted them.  He had a very direct and personal approach, sculpting in clay as his subjects sat, using simple tools, documenting his response to them in ‘real time’. Rosenblatt’s interpretations of his subjects resulted in densely rich and intimate gestural and sometimes humorous portraits with his signature mark-making evident in all these hand-shaped models in clay. Having begun his sculpture-making in wax casting and bronzes,
he switched to terra cotta clay because of the high costs of creating bronzes.  The ubiquitous accessibility of clay fit nicely with Rosenblatt’s style of working and subject matter.  He wanted to capture moments in time of everyday people in their own environments. The results included distortions in the figures, resulting in a mix of reality and fantasy. One of his most prominent works  The Lunch Counter(1987) was inspired by a visit to the tomb of Chin Qin in China in 1985. The tomb had a sculpture of ceramic foot soldiers and mounted horsemen guarding the emperor.  Rosenblatt’s The Lunch Counter included fifty figures in a sculpture thirty feet long. Having taken one year to complete, Rosenblatt used the site of his daily visit for meals at the Oriental Pharmacy/Lunch Counter near his studio in Milwaukee.  His ‘subjects’ included waitresses and cooks, as well as regular patrons – artists, business people, folks from all walks of life who came together to eat, socialize and relax. They each sat for him as he sculpted their unique poses and gave them life through his energetic hands, as if channeling his life into their clay images.

He talked about the creation of his work:
 “I bring color to my work like a painter brings color. I like bright colors, the kinds of colors not normally what people put on sculptures. They’re not supposed to be pretty. The colors are the aura I experience…I don’t do look-alike sculptures. I do feel-alike sculptures. With color, I tried to create the sensation I felt and experienced with each person.” (comments made by Rosenblatt on sculptures of children, Milwaukee’s Anderson Arts Center)1995

Whether he was making paintings on-site in the woods, or creating figurative sculptures in communications with subjects as they sat, Rosenblatt’s works emanate an energy and dynamism that came from his heart and soul. Rosenblatt’s work can be found in private and public collections including the Library of Congress, Lester Avnet Collection, Vincent Price Collection, Williamstown Museum and the Milwaukee Art Museum. He was the recipient of the Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award in 2013.
  Video about Oriental Pharmacy/Lunch Counter 1987

Oriental Pharmacy/Lunch Counter (detail)    1987

Oriental Pharmacy/Lunch Counter (detail)    1987

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