The door to Edo Rosenblith’s studio opens onto a corridor of the old International Shoe Company building downtown, the section which houses lofts and work spaces, not kids screaming for thrills in the City Museum, behind the drywall.
In a well-lit room with a view of the city’s industrial North, Rosenblith makes images which have an underground comics vibe: they are full of a similar bewhiskered-stumblebum-buzzed-by-flies detail. They’re funny. But high art principles lurk beneath the pop pen-work.
A huge collage of inspirational images torn from the pages of Art Forum magazine blankets the wall above a futon couch. Cindy Sherman stares at the cutting room floor in a blonde wig. The love handles of a fat stone Venus are echoed in one of Rosenblith’s nearby sketches, as is the profile of Jesus H. Christ.
The concept for Low Spectrum, a recent series of 13 monochromatic paintings, began at the St. Louis Art Museum, where Rosenblith overheard a woman tell her husband that Ellsworth Kelly’s 1967 painting Spectrum II ‚ which does resemble the Rainbow Pride Flag, was obviously about gay rights. Rosenblith realized that the observer will always imbue art with his own meaning, even though Kelly‚ Minimalist intention was to remove narrative from paint.
Rosenblith provides plenty to interpret in the crazy terrain of Low Spectrum‚ colorscape. In the red scene, for instance, an 85-year-old psychiatrist ponders Id from a paneled office equipped with both a portrait of Freud and an old-school Freudian couch‚ which is densely embellished with bodies and body parts. Beneath it lurk the iconic stocking legs of the Wicked Witch of the West, with her feet sawed off. The psychoanalyzed patient lies on top, while suffocating under a pyramid of three large sausage-nosed heads. Nothing is shrunken by this shrink: even the doctor’s own exposed foot is magnified to highlight a big toe.
Motifs of toes, noses, and bones run throughout the artist’s drawings ‚a visual alliteration of the hard Os of his first and last name? The proportions of his subjects are usually distorted. See giant burqa-wrapped faces on teensy bodies, wearing size 13 clown shoes. “I’m attracted to the grotesque. Whenever I was doing figure drawing in school, I’d get bored with realism.”
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, Rosenblith lost the feedback and encouragement of academia. He turned to the Internet for an audience, posting sketches daily. Feedback and encouragement resumed, and Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts published Pink, a book of these sketches, last year.
When he was almost 16, Rosenblith got a job at a Mexican restaurant near his home in Chesterfield. The owners were a man from Mexico and his large Italian wife. “She was cross-eyed, so no one could ever tell whom she was yelling at,” he recalls. Though promised a position as a busboy, he was given a white coat and checked pants, then shown how to operate the big box dishwashing machine. He’d never washed a dish before. Suddenly a gang of cooks was shoving hot pans and sharp knives at him all night. The warnings of “caliente!” and “afilado!” didn’t prevent him from getting burned and cut. “Plus,” Rosenblith recalls, “there was all that cheese to scrape off of the dishes. I never wore the right shoes, so not just my clothes and hands got soaked: my feet were always sopping too by the time I got off work at two in the morning.”
Then: Overwhelmed Cheese Wrangler
Now: Diligent Maximalist