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Art in Odum Library – The Ross Rosenberg Collection

by Michael Holt on August 31, 2011 in Odum Library

Our series of blog posts about art in Odum Library continues this week with a look at the Ross Rosenberg collection, which is currently on display on the second floor. This collection features works by the artist Ross Rosenberg in a number of mediums, from sketches in pencil, to sculpture. If you would like to know more about the artist and his work, please continue reading for a short biographical sketch of Rosenberg and a discussion of his work.


Ross Rosenberg was born in Syracuse, New York in 1941. he grew up in Rochester, NY, and attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in English Literature and Art History. From that time until now, he has lived and worked in New York City. He studied drawing at the University of Michigan, drawing, painting, and sculpture at Parsons, drawing and printmaking at the School of Visual Arts, and papermaking at Dieu Donne. His work is in corporate and public collections, including the New York Public Library, and here, at Valdosta State University. His work was first displayed at Valdosta State University in a VSU Art Gallery Show “Works on Paper” and several of his smaller works were purchased at that time. Mr. Rosenberg has exhibited around the country and his large drawings series, of which this is a selection, were exhibited previously at MIT in Cambridge, MA, and at various exhibits in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Mr. Rosenberg has described his large drawings and sculptures:

I am drawn to commonplace subjects such as chairs and houses because they are comfortingly familiar but at the same time they allow me to express feelings of mystery and foreboding. It is the ambiguity that involves me.

Most of the images are based on early childhood memories. The rounded chair, for example, comes from a memory of being in a dark living room at night. There is a dim light coming from down a long hall. I hear someone in the hall and I climb up onto the chair and hide between the arms on the seat.

The upright chair image is connected to the memory of watching my father making a chair for me when I was four years old. When I sat in it, my back rested against its back, my seat on its seat, my legs by its legs. Now I am both the chair and the one who makes the chair.

So although I do not work from a conscious program or a theoretical base, there are clear emotional lines running through all of my work.

There are three main genres of Rosenberg’s work on display in Odum Library. What follows is a discussion of each genre and a representative piece from it.


The paintings of this rounded chair are seen from a child’s eye level and they put an adult in the same size relationship to the chair in the painting that a two-year-old has to a real one. As this series developed, I began to focus more and more on discovering different ways to create texture. So some of them are as much about how they were made as why they were made.

Painting of a Chair in Blue and Black Oil Paint on Canvas No Frame
“Blue Chair”
Acrylic on canvas
Size: 87” x 72”
Donated By Ross Rosenberg
Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections

Small Drawings

The Dream Series consists of 15 drawings, all done between January, 1992 and March, 1993. The series came about through a happy accident. One day he was designing a large drawing, and he was going to draw it out on a small scale first. So he took some paper (Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper) and began laying down a ground—lightly shading an area with graphite. As he shaded, he noticed something that looked like eyes coming through from the texture inherent in the paper. Then he drew what he saw there. The Dream Series is an exercise in “stream of conscious” drawing and texture. The faces, the animals, the faces turning into animals, all emerged from slight differences in the texture of the paper which he then accented. Rosenberg said that whenever he tried the make the process thoughtful, and perhaps fill in a blank spot, the drawing failed. Compare these small bits of texture study with the large paintings, also texture studies, hung all around the library.

Please click on this picture to appreciate it’s intricate detail.

“Dream 2”
Pencil on Paper
Donated by Ross Rosenberg
Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections


In the words of Ross Rosenberg, artist:

The chair sculptures were created with the intention of emphasizing this relationship between the chair and the human body. The upright chair image is connected to the memory of watching my father making a chair for me when I was four years old. When I sat in it, my back rested against its back, my seat on its seat, my legs by its legs. Now I am both the chair and the one who makes the chair.

“Chairs Sculpture”
Paper Maché

According to an art critic, writing about Mr. Rosenberg’s works in the “Great Big Drawings” Show at MIT in 1982,

Ross Rosenberg’s dark, rolling contours suggest a cold and vacant nocturnal landscape; only gradually do they reveal themselves as the plump, domesticated curves of an overstuffed armchair. The artist is interested in conveying not the profile of a friendly and familiar household object, but instead, with the scale dislocation of a nightmare, the disquieting invitation of this dark…maternal embrace. (Kathy Kline, “Great Big Drawings,” Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982)

Mr. Rosenberg donated his large drawings to Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections in 2008-2009. You may see photographs of all his collected works owned by the VSU Archives and Special Collections in our Archon System at http://www.valdosta.edu/library/find/arch/findingaids/index.shtml , by searching under Rosenberg.

The VSU Archives and Special Collections and Odum Library are glad to share these canvases, drawings, and sculptures with the campus community. Over the last three years, we have spent a lot of time with these pieces, cleaning them, cataloging, photographing, and describing them, researching them, and getting them ready for exhibit. When we first opened the big shipping crates our reaction was “Chairs, and they are really big.” As we unrolled, cleaned and photographed them, we were struck by the “weirdness” of them, and the up-close impression of a lot of paint. The longer we lived with them, the more they captured our imagination. We realized why they were so big—to simultaneous evoke childhood safety and vulnerability, we needed to be small in relation to them. And we realized that we could never really see them in the tight photographs we took—we were photographing in a relatively small room—or standing over them spread out on the floor. We were glad to be able to create this exhibit on the large walls of the library, and it was not until they were hanging that we could fully appreciate all the facets of these “Great Big” works.

We thank Ross Rosenberg for donating his works, both large and small, and we thank the Valdosta State University Art Funding Pool committee for funding some framing and stabilization of the collection. Carla Penny of Classic Art and Frame was invaluable in helping us decide how to hang such large canvases. VSU Carpenters hung all the pieces and built the sculpture bases. The Odum Library Art Committee, Deborah Davis, Chair, Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Denise Montgomery, Julie Bowland, Stacey Wright, and Elizabeth Barwick designed and researched all the exhibits. VSU Archives and Special Collections Student workers assisted with cleaning paintings and sign layout. We hope you enjoy these works.


Prudence Crowther says:

I bought a drawing of an armchair second-hand out of an estate sale without knowing who Rosenberg was—just thought the drawing was beautiful and powerful. I’m so glad to learn about him here.

moholt says:

It’s so great to hear from others who have had their own experiences with Rosenberg’s art! We are glad to hear about your story of acquiring the Rosenberg drawing.

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