Seymour Rosofsky (1924-1981) was one of a generation of strong post war independent-minded Chicago artists who bucked the trends of abstraction, minimalism and conceptual art coming from New York in the 1950s through the 1980, who wrestled with his experiences through a staunchly figurative, surreal style.
Rosofsky’s complex imagery is intensely personal and illuminates the social, cultural and artistic contexts of the last half of the 20th century. Themes of individual’s loss of power in the face of modern life; relationships between male and female, the voyage of life and the absurdity of war reflect emotional and societal turmoil.
Stylistic traits of expressionism, especially in handling of paint, a preference for imagery over abstraction and a tendency towards strong, sometimes brutal life figures stress tensions rather than the joys of everyday life. Paintings often employ an unreal flattened space rather than three-dimensional environments. Content and composition are ruled by chance encounters of the subconscious rather than by reason. The juxtaposition and meaning of symbolic objects with figures and their interrelationships is often difficult to interpret.
In some compositions perspective is totally askew. An object’s size depends on its importance rather than on the laws of perspective. Tension is established between the flat surface of the canvas and the illusion of three-dimensions inherent in the object’s and figures. The interrelationships as well as the meaning of the various objects are often ambiguous. Rosofsky presents a Freudian, stream of consciousness chaos that seems to mirror the universe’s increasing entropy and disorganization.
Despite the ambiguity of his symbols, viewers see their own lives on his canvases because the major themes reflect the social and historical revolutions of the late twentieth century. By expressing issues relevant to his own life, he was able to touch upon and echo others’ lives as well. Personal imagery and surrealist devices serve to open the works, allowing the viewer to read his or her experience into them.
The realism with which Rosofsky depicts the individual anchors his hermetic symbols in a familiar world, making them seem credible, no matter how incredible their surroundings. He achieved the interdependence of the two seemingly conflicting elements of his art – naturalism and surrealism. Warm and cool, light, brilliance and shadow become players in the drama of his paintings.