ART MATTERS:Steve Rossi and the Power of Standing Still
Some think that if we stand still long enough, history will eventually revisit us, and , barely, will we need to revise anything. Well, maybe the conclusions and some of the codes change, for example, the military updating of it’s targets and capabilities, predictable “fashion” shifts, the nutritional benefits of coffee now geared towards cancer prevention with free radical additives. At times, scientific inquiry is not impressively reassuring when certain discoveries rock back and forth like a wooden horse.
Here they come again: world wars and religious conflicts , short skirts, the human figure as a popular image in art, the strength of family and community concepts, possibly cave dwelling and horse and buggy if oil prices rise beyond $4.00 per gallon. We validate time honored homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal treatments and consider their inclusion into medical benefits.
Time certainly doesn’t stand still, so, away we go, making new (better) money, new (better) forms of art, new (better) wild grown herbal remedies, new (you get the idea) hybrids of just about everything, new wars, new sciences, coffee with added antioxidants so that it looks like it’s honestly healthy and new devices to connect to email. (which is where you discover this health packed coffee formula) Even new ways to tell about the same old thing, but better.
So when I walked up the stairs on Main Street in Beacon, NY to the spacious artist loft of Steve Rossi and his partner, Sue Rossi, also an artist, it was deja vu over clothed mannequins in the corner of his studio – a family of three – standing still. Powerfully standing still. Hints of post war America: army style clothing sold in Target Stores, storefront mannequins right out of a 50’s TV screen- frozen American dreams, promising to always be there for us, just for the asking. Exhibited in other parts of his studio was a “carpet” style Islam mosaic pattern composed of Fruit Loops (yummy stuff forbidden in the artist’s household by a cautious and protective mom). Suspended from the ceiling was a piece titled 46 Degrees, consisting of a bunch of View-Master toys, through which the audience can see broadcast news and advertising images.
Where am I? Toy store? Peter’s Market cereal section? Dominican Republic sweat shop? Back in Vietnam? A childhood full of pretend war games or Chuck Norris films? Is this a fashion show or a portentous display, warning us that we best be hiding from – who? – ourselves? Is it a display of optimism: war struggles evolving into entertainment, fashion and economic gain? Rossi demonstrates a perplexing and provocative style, while creating a common childhood story through his grown up awareness. If only we could all go back and rethink everything we were taught- before we went to art school. Steve’s studio is a gently poignant reminder to think and re-think with your whole being. And not just that, but to step outside of your ego by incorporating photos of neighbors, fabricating for other artists, inviting other local artists to exhibit in your studio (gulp), teach workshops and to embrace multiple identities within the scope of your work. He does all this. It’s a rich experience of potential discovery.
Okay I’m getting a bit carried away, but Steve Rossi’s art shakes the ideas supporting an American “dream” of personal and political freedoms. He speaks in icons: camouflage, children’s war games, Andy Warhol and popular consumerism. His use of humor to talk about political covert subversive strategy on the part of political leaders, intends, I imagine to pry open a dialogue about how to stop killing each other. Or at least, bring attention to the fact that we still are.
Rossi’s work is neither utilitarian nor is it consumer oriented. It is thoughtful, somewhat labyrinthian in concept, and moderately obscure (unless you grew up in Pennsylvania in the mid to late 80’s etc.).
In support of his desire to be a resident artist in Ellenville , Steve has proposed a 5 day workshop project for the MarketStreet Art Center. His subject is a 1955 automobile hood ornament which “bears a striking resemblance to a fighter jet, creating connections between automobiles, oil consumption, consumerism and military mite.” He continues his proposal concept:
I'm interested in creating a mobile sculpture out of slip-cast
porcelain automobile hood ornaments… For me, using porcelain
to recreate this object speaks to the vulnerabilities many feel,
especially in this Hudson Valley area, where the manufacturing base
has collapsed and people still living in this area are wondering what
sort of economic systems will be coming in to replace the industry
base, if any.
Steve grew up in Pittsburgh, was a young, avid skateboarder, and discovered an art talent while designing T-shirts for his athletic team. Meanwhile his dad’s employment as a general contractor offered him a working knowledge of construction and materials. An excellent high school art program pointed him to the Corcoran School of Art where he studied painting., before he went on to Pratt and, finally SUNY New Paltz to earn an MFA.
“Dad didn’t quite understand the non-utilitarian aspect of art making” claimed Steve. But validation went hand in hand with his Masters of Fine Arts show and a solo at the
Carbon14 Gallery in Philadelphia a few years later. You will find him, these days, at the Pollich-Tallix Foundry in Newburgh where he is involved in the fabrication and assembly of castings for well known artists including Tom Otterness and Louise Bourgeois.
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