The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in Chelsea is currently presenting an extensive collection of work by renowned sculptor and painter Theodore Roszak in an exhibition titled Theodore Roszak: Propulsive Transfiguration, A Survey of Drawings from 1928 to 1980. The show consists of 53 drawings spanning Roszak’s career and revolve around the idea of metamorphosis, a theme which has always fascinated him.
Early in his career, Roszak incorporated Constructivist styles in his work and was greatly influenced by Bauhaus design and architecture, which he experienced during his travels to Europe. During the 1940s, his work became more aligned with Surrealism and the dynamics of metamorphosis, when he developed a more expressionistic drawing technique.
Included in this show are several self-portraits where Roszak illustrates himself highlighting various sides of his character. For instance, there’s one portrait of him as a young man dressed in a suit looking serious as he rolls one of his eyes in a funny position. In another self-portrait, Roszak is seen sitting on a wooden floor with his legs spread out playing an accordion wearing a bright red suit. In a similar image (though not a self-portrait) known as Musician with Ball features a young man sitting alone at a table in a bar or restaurant wearing a striped shirt and holding a small, red and white striped ball in the palm of his hand as his violin is placed on the chair across from him. His gloomy expression captures the hardships and loneliness that many struggling musicians and street performers face.
Another one of his intriguing portraits is that of a woman very much resembling Lady Liberty with her crown, long curly hair, and facial structure. With her left hand, she strokes one of the ribbons on her robe as a piece of cloth is draped over her arm, and right below her near her waist, the structure of a city can be seen with a curved sidewalk, staircase, and several buildings.
Also of note is Portrait (Florence), is a depiction of the artist’s wife, who frequently served as a model for Roszak’s images of women. She is portrayed from the chest up with pointy structures emerging from all sides of her including from the fancy 19th century hat she’s wearing. She tilts her head to the right with a fixed gaze on something or someone as her nose sticks out like that of Pinocchio.
Roszak saw immense success during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956, the Rodin Museum in Paris mounted an exhibition of his work, followed by a retrospective of his work at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. In 1959, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation and his work was featured in a group exhibition at MoMA. In 1969, Roszak began a six-year position as a member of the Fine Arts Commission, and in 1971, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome. Roszak continued to work until his death in 1981.
At the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 100 Eleventh Ave., through May 14. The gallery is open Tues.—Sat. from 10 a.m.—6 p.m.