“Art Rosenbaum is a great American painter. Smart as hell, raw and beautiful, all heart, soul, and music.
“[Rosenbaum’s] investigations have resulted in a tapestry of images woven from the uncommon threads of his life’s pursuits. His subjects are the passing of moments before our eyes or inner sight. The evanescent setting of a dreamer’s revelation, a lover’s interrupted flicker of intimacy, and the fleeting gestures that twitch across a sitter’s countenance—these make up the fabric of Rosenbaum’s art”
“A typical Rosenbaum canvas is fairly teeming with figures, many of them specific portraits, often including the artist himself. Elements of landscape, of architecture, of still life (often musical instruments): all are presented in rich detail, but at the same time with bold and fearless brushwork. There is no dead space in a Rosenbaum painting. Something is going on everywhere one looks. Crammed with activity and information, which in lesser hands could lead to visual chaos, Rosenbaum’s work is always under firm control. The artist is a master of pictorial design.
“As this painting [“Hurricane Season Triptych] demonstrates, Rosenbaum concerns himself with stylistic considerations, keeps in close touch with life, and seeks a wider empathy of his own place, time, and fellow humans. He uses a formal art to realize an understanding of the human experience with his evocative and markedly contemporary painted amalgamations of the common, the emblematic, and the personal.”
Rosenbaum's richly episodic compositions, with their uneasy disjunctures and willingness to tackle big themes, resist straightforward narrative interpretation... Rosenbaum is very good at his game, and technically brilliant passages reminiscent of Baroque and 19th-century painting appear throughout... Worked over like a rich brocade, details also impart pleasures. Sultry, Delacroix-like turquoise skies and amber clouds crackle with a sunset's reflected lights... These are grand paintings of grand ambition, sometimes edgy and foreboding but loving riffs on and tributes to our country...
Art Rosenbaum delivers evocative updated versions of '30's American scene painting. He plays with the edge between illustration and abstraction, delivering works full of personal/ universal commentary. Rosenbaum charges the picture plane with a numbing amount of information that is sometimes humorous, sometimes foreboding.
Rosenbaum [has the] ability to orchestrate the sharply observed elements of this world so that utterly convincing details add up to a bizarre allegorical vision.
Among sets of large [paintings] reflecting life in the rural South was included a [triptych] inspired by the artist's travels in the Indian South. Rich with color, sweeping in scale, they were indistinguishable from the impressive works suffusing the rest of the room but for their subject.
The myriad images in each [of Art Rosenbaum's paintings] appear to have a rational, though tenuous connection. In "Fall Passage," there are figures in a contorted dance, a black woman singing, a cadaver laid out on a hospital cart, a man digging a grave and two distant trains colliding against an autumn sky. Everything twists and curves, undulating with the emotional vitality of the scene. There is a sense of menace, of an implosion of colors and brush strokes. It is a world with a wealth of activity but not quite solid; in the process of becoming, of dying, of transforming itself. The details of the painting mesh in complex iconography--a metaphor for the dance of death.
The real challenge... is not to dwell on extremes, but to focus on the realities in the middle... Maybe because Art Rosenbaum is an ethnographer as well as an artist, his [paintings] come closer to this sensibility. The University of Georgia art professor makes monumental paintings in the manner of the social realists of the '30s that record aspects of the South that fascinate him--its music, its art, its characters.
All three are subsumed in the multiple vignettes that make up Mr. Rosenbaum's "Wind and Water." Blues musician Tampa Red stands near the center with a young Athens blues band..the Chickasaw Mudpuppies, performing to the left; self-trained artist R.A. Miller with his whirligigs on the right; and a young wrestler preening below. A tornado-like brush stroke and a style one might call an expressionist Reginald Marsh unify this loving document of regional idiosyncrasies."
[Rosenbaum's] paintings are not strictly true-to-life; they are combinations of people, places and events, both real and imagined. Rosenbaum is an extraordinarily accomplished draftsman, whose work is much in the tradition of the Social Realist painters of the American 30s and 40s.
Art Rosenbaum comes across as a latter-day regionalist, though his paintings explore the collision of big-city and rural Southern culture rather than simply glorifying the latter.
His "Rakestraw's Dream" exemplifies his expressionist figural style and thematic interest. Old-time musicians play their fiddles and guitars at the water's edge against the backdrop of a Polo store. The whole painting appears to ripple in the winds of change. Its foreboding mood is accentuated by the eddying water, whose destructive power is suggested by the debris floating in it.
In his most imaginative work... there is a mixture of direct observation and storytelling that is reminiscent of the best of Chagall's folktale paintings. The style of drawing, however, is more Mexican mural than Chagall's sugary lyricism. In the best of Rosenbaum there is the biting edge of Orozco's social conscience... the mixture of strong overall structure and attention to detail takes his work out of the realm of the simply well crafted or decorative into the maligned field of narrative art. It is true that few contemporary artists have succeeded at this genre...It is Rosenbaum's sure drawing and immediacy that seem perfectly suited to social history painting and it would be worth the money to give him a wall to tell some of his tall tales on a grand scale. In the meantime his handsome drawings are an impressive achievement and his larger work augurs well for even larger accomplishments.
Art finds beauty, sensuality, and, sometimes, weirdness in folklore, and isn't afraid to show it to us in the midst of our dislocated, jet-age world.