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Stanley Rosen: Slabs and coils, scallops and disks

Stanley Rosen, installation view at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects

Contributed by Rachel Youens / Stanley Rosen came of age as a sculptor during the 1960s and 1970s, when ceramicists and sculptors were challenging the hegemonic hold that painting had in the art world as the medium of heroic significance. His sculptures are made at a modest scale that, somewhat paradoxically, implies monumentality. Incorporating and cross-pollinating vessels and architecture, his formal language adapts traditional methods to new expressions. He employs slabs, coils, scallops, disks, and tiles. Most works are unglazed in various earthen clay hues ochers, siennas, or charcoal leaving us to ponder porous or metallic surfaces. Crucially, Rosens forms accommodate the spatial limits they meet and inhabit, welcoming viewers in.

In 2017, Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects introduced Rosens work to the New York City audience on the heels of Rosen retrospectives at the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum upstate and the Bennington Museum at Bennington College, where Rosen had taught since 1959. For Harveys second exhibit, he drew from four decades of work, from the 1960s through the 1990s, at Rosens Vermont studio. The show includes several tall, unglazed vessels. Most are four-sided with squared seams, rather than round. They often have rims that curve openly toward the light, subverting the traditional role of sculptures as insular enclosures. Rosen also incorporates buttresses, windows, and shutters, patiently building the pressed, segmented surfaces vertically from floor to rim so that the viewer first encounters them just above eye level. By way of this dynamic, the pieces affirm the archetypal role of the vessel as a source of nourishment and wellbeing.

Stanley Rosen, Untitled (SR#55) c. 1965, unglazed stoneware, 13 x 8 x 8 inches
Stanley Rosen, Untitled (SR#addendumB) 1968-69, glazed stoneware, 10 x 5 x 4 inches
Stanley Rosen, Untitled (SR#124), 1970s, unglazed stoneware, 1/2 x 11 x 5 inches
Stanley Rosen, Untitled (SR#17), 1962-63, unglazed iron-rich stoneware, 16 x 15 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches

The subdued scale of other works evoke ancient European and Asian architectural models, while their surfaces call to mind the husks, grasses and stalks, the wattle and daub, or the mud adobe of Anasazi and Native American dwellings. Constructed in single or multiple stories with square proportions, they often have inner courtyards with surrounding compartments of interlaced, coiled latticework. Though smaller than human-scale, they too are eminently accessible. And several works break the boundaries of frame, form, and gravity, as if emerging from an aquatic environment of changeable currents and novel pressures. SR#124, a half-inch tall, feels bound to the ocean floor, while SR#17, with coiled strands pressed against one another, is unanchored and disorienting. Thus Rosen offers viewers opportunities for exploration as well as reassurance. Both intimate and expansive, his patient, attentive, and deft merging of elemental substances earth, water, fire, and stone suggests a steady, hidden presence in familiar and unfamiliar environments alike.

Stanley Rosen, Shaping Space, Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, 208 Forsyth Street, New York, NY. Through February 13, 2021.

About the author: Rachel Youens is a painter, with a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Brooklyn College, where she studied with Lois Dodd, John Walker, and the late Jack Whitten and Lennart Anderson. She has had numerous shows in NYC, most recently at Valentine Gallery in Ridgewood. Youens teaches at Parsons School of Design, The New School, and at LaGuardia Community College.

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