January 28, 2013

A Delightful Discovery at the Metro Show:  Larry Lewis


Meandering through the mazes of booths at the Metro Show this afternoon, I was arrested by an image—a bold, graphic colorful portrait of a woman staring frontally, and assumed it was by Seymour Chwast.  But as I got closer and walked around this gallery booth, I learned the work was by a little known artist from New Canaan, Connecticut, Larry Lewis.  Lewis who was born in 1919, and lived a relatively hermetic existence in the house he grew up in, spent his free time—when not working as a corporate secretary—making art.  He had formal training at the Art Students League, and had a few shows of his paintings, but created this large body of collage art for himself.  Working on these pieces privately, he did not show them to many people; perhaps maybe only his niece. 

Over many years, and especially from the 60’s until he died in 2004, he delighted in using the Xerox machine to blow up vintage newspaper ads, and movie ephemera as the basis for books and books he created of tabloid-sized pop collages, exuberant in color and bold graphically, with interesting juxtapositions and humor.  This trove of work—redolent of Joseph Cornell, Stuart Davis and of course, Warhol—has not yet been widely seen—beyond New Canaan’s Silvermine Arts Center—where there was a show of his work in 2011. 

When Lewis died, he left all the art and other contents of his home to his niece, who meticulously went about preserving, documenting and finding a professional venue for her uncle’s work.  This weekend at the Metro Show, New Haven’s Giampietro Gallery is formally introducing the New York art world to Larry Lewis’ work.  Giampietro will be putting many of his books online in the coming weeks, and plans to show more of his work in the next few years.

October 24, 2012

House of T

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This should be a motion picture, or a lavishly illustrated catalogue, but for now you can absorb the story of DD and Leslie Tillett as a jewel of an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  Famous—with great cache in their time (1950’s-1980’s), the Tilletts’ name and work receded into obscurity; this show reintroduces them.

The Tilletts seemed to have it all:  Meeting and falling in love at an artists’ community in Mexico, they travelled, collaborated and created collections of printed textiles for fashion and home in mid-century Manhattan, supported by society patrons and celebrity interior designers—working from their studio, workshop, showroom and family residence on the Upper East Side.

imageimageWalking over to their former carriage house at 170 East 80th Street last week, and wishing buildings could speak, I wondered—with envy—about a New York City once hospitable to creative people, where they could afford to live, work and sell—in one conveniently located edifice. On one floor in their brownstone, the Tilletts hand-screened fabrics from a room-length table, often using a strie technique, elaborately layering the prints with five passes or more.  Attentive to the needs of interior designers, they printed color ways on demand for each client.  Besides painting and drawing from nature themselves, they used photo
transfers from historic sources, ethnographic material and other graphics.

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DD Tillett never left the house in a garment she did not design.  She and Leslie produced hundreds of prints, distilled from their travels, studies of indigenous peoples and the workshops they established.  Embedded in Bedford Stuyvesant in the mid 1970’s at the request of Jackie Onassis, the Tilletts set up a workshop to engage and train local artists and others from the community in developing and silkscreening textiles based on African motifs.  Innovative in business, Leslie Tillett developed a necktie subscription service advertised in The New Yorker, featuring their prints.

For people who were seemingly blasé about saving things—according to their son Seth—Leslie and DD Tillett left a trove of organized ephemera, clippings, notebooks, samples and other items that have contributed to the substance of this show.

Photo credit: 1954 contact sheet photo by Allan Arbus

October 08, 2012

The Novogratz Commission

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This past January, I got an email from Bob Novogratz, of the HGTV home renovation show, Home by Novogratz.  Bob had seen a drawing on my website—a toile I created for Cornell University, and asked whether I could create a piece of original artwork—this time with Princeton as theme.  The commission would adorn the living room wall of their client, a Princeton alum whose apartment makeover would be featured by the Novogratz on their upcoming series.

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The show,“Masculine Mod East Village Bachelor Pad”, which airs this Saturday, October 13, on HGTV, features the Princeton print on the wall. The original pen and ink drawing—made into a limited-edition archival 22” x 27” print—features a dozen iconic elements of the built environment on the Princeton campus (among them the Gothic Blair Hall, the twin Greek Revival temples Clio and Whig Halls, the campus’ centerpiece, Nassau Hall, Library Arch, the Tudor Gothic McCosh Hall, Roberston Hall, Venturi’s Wu Hall and the Clement Meadmore minimalist steel sculpture Upstart 2)—in Princeton colors.

The framed print also appears on page 205, and in the Sources guide in the just-published companion book to the TV show, Home by Novogratz

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Hope you can see the show, buy the book, or both!

July 30, 2012

Mari-Mecca

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This morning I had the privilege of being invited to tour the Helsinki factory and headquarters of a design company I love:  the iconic Marimekko.  Founded more than 60 years ago, it is a brand that is classic, continually renews itself, and exudes integrity—to its very fiber.

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Walking around Helsinki the past few days, I’ve been struck by how many people there wear something Marimekko; a striped shirt, poppy print hat, dress, or tote. 

While most of the factory was on July holiday with operations shut down, a PR specialist took us around the quiet plant, making the process come alive.  Seeing the scale and complexity of Marimekko’s operation, the company culture that came across reinforced and augmented my original impressions.  Time is important for output:  As a textile designer it was interesting to learn that it takes one year for each silkscreened print to be made, from initial concept to final printed product. 

Some of the production process is automated, but the ultimate quality of the printed fabrics depend on the human eye—there is someone who has been with the company for 30 years who examines each panel of a print for any defects.

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Now when I wear my jokapoika shirt or Iloinen takki patchwork pocket dress, it will be with a new perspective and appreciation. 

June 29, 2012

Coming Soon to a Sofa Near You

I just completed a licensing arrangement with DQtrs, a cool San Francisco-based home decor company.  Later this summer, DQtrs will be producing and selling a collection of limited-edition pillows, featuring illustrations I drew of my own collection of vintage bracelets.  Initially, the collection will be five themes with bracelets on both pillow front and back, in luscious and subtle palettes.  The first series of pillows are close-ups of the links.

After drawing them and observing the bracelets for a while, I began to personify them—as I am wont to do—which led me to seeing several of the illustrations as metaphors for hooking up. In Relationships and Courtship, the bracelets appear to be making attempts to connect, and link up as their clasps approach each other.  Will they ever touch, embrace and lock in? 

See the entire collection and purchase

May 23, 2012

Bid on my Collage for a Good Cause

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This Sunday, one of my pieces will be auctioned in support of a cause I admire—the Columbia Land Conservancy.  The CLC is an organization that works to preserve the rural character of Columbia County and connect the community with the land.  The auction is one part of the Country Barbecue, an annual fundraiser that this year returns to the magnificently sited Rockefeller Farm overlooking the Catskills in Livingston, NY. This celebration caps the CLC’s 25th anniversary, and will attract some 1000 supporters. 

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The donated piece, a limited-edition framed print, 24″ x 31″, Columbus Ave. Midnight, makes some reference to the barbecue theme.

Hope to see you there!

May 22, 2012

Rosen on the Hudson

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Several of my collages and prints will anoint the muted olive walls of Culture+Commerce Project, the carefully curated Hudson, New York gallery of artist-made practical and beautiful home décor.  The group show—ENLIGHTENED—features artisanal lighting and fine art, celebrates luminosity and considers the bearable lightness of being—in all its layers.  I believe my work fits into the latter category.

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Culture+Commerce Project is celebrating its one-year anniversary Memorial Day weekend, with a reception Saturday May 26 from 5-8pm.  Please drop by.

My thanks to Sherry Jo Williams, founder and creative director of Culture+Commerce Project for her kindness, wit, tenacity, support—and shared love of convergences.

March 15, 2012

The Master of the Avenue B School of Art‏

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What a thrill it was tonight:  Not only to be in a room arrayed with an abundance of amazing collages by one of my idols, John Evans, but to actually meet him!  And to tell him that he has been a great influence and inspiration for my own collage practice.  He was holding court at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea, at a reception celebrating the publication of a book of his works from the year 1984.

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For decades, Evans made daily collages in bound books on heavy paper, applying collected gems of ephemera from his East Village neighborhood and life to grounds of watercolor wash, bound by hand-drawn borders—each page date-stamped.  Ducks were his Ninas, and they were all lined up at the gallery this evening, as a continuous motif along the bottoms of his works.  Intimate in size, each piece is about 8” x 5”; each page has been carefully extracted by X-acto knife and metal ruler from Evans’ notebooks.

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People love his work for different reasons:  Some are attracted to the dates—Valentine’s day, today, the Ides of March, their birthdays. Others love to interrogate the jewel-like content—stamps, ornate fabric swatches, candy foils, ads, cookie fortunes, found notes, packaging labels. Then there is his signature formalism, the way he incorporates pasted objects with paint, ink,color and wit that magically coalesce into totemic sculpture, akin to the way Leger made 2-D look 3-D. 

I also learned John Evans is a father of twins!

March 07, 2012

A solo show of my collages at Darren Winston Bookseller, Sharon, CT

imageA bibliopole who runs a mid-century-modern-décor salon adorned with mouthwatering books, ephemera and objets, Darren Winston is also a gallerist who is giving me a solo show.  “On the Street Where You Live,” opening on March 20, features 30 or so of my original collages.  The works, created in notebooks over the past few years, are based on my peregrinations through various places—Hudson NY, Manhattan neighborhoods, North Adams, Great Barrington, Dutchess County, and somewhere between Portland and Portsmouth.  A pickup artist, I am always scouring the ground, looking for choice shards to use, curating them as treasures to eventually paste down in careful compositions. 

The collages explore my fascination with post-consumer behavior, puns and colorful lingo in the deluge of marketing messages, and their connections to real locations and times.

Now, I can honestly call myself the Rosen of Sharon.

Directions to Darren Winston Booksellers

December 20, 2011

Berkshire Creative Challenge: Rennie & Rose and Rosen

At 2AM one late October night, I received an email invitation to participate in this year’s Berkshire Creative Challenge. The Challenge is an annual opportunity for Berkshire-based businesses to partner with the creative community.  I wrote an essay, answered some questions, pointed to the work on my website and sent it off.

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This year, Rennie & Rose, a family-owned home furnishings manufacturer in Adams, MA was the hosting business for the Challenge. In mid-November, I was notified that I made the first cut—one of several candidates to be asked to visit Rennie & Rose, learn more about their products and operations, and do a design assignment:  interpret a piece of art for the home furnishings market; show how it would work on a pillow, placemat and runner.

After presenting a series of design ideas to Rennie & Rose last month, I learned that I won the Berkshire Creative Challenge.  I am excited to be able to collaborate with Rennie & Rose on future design projects. Thank you Rennie & Rose. Thank you Berkshire Creative.

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