Toronto, Canada, b. 1912, d. 2004
Painter David Rosen emerged onto the art scene while the country was wrought with unimaginable economic turmoil. Like most other Americans, the Great Depression pummeled artists financially, leaving them destitute and unable to find even conventional labor work. However, in the midst of such devastation, the government implemented arts projects which strove to achieve employment for these artists. The program arose during a memorable era for art and funded the careers of several renowned artists, including Jackson Pollack, Arshile Gorky, and Lee Krasner before they found success. In 1936, Rosen himself joined the program and quickly accompanied his contemporaries in building the next movement of modern art, Abstract Expressionism.
Born in 1912, Rosen grew up in Toronto, Canada before pursuing arts in the United States. Upon arriving, Rosen settled in New York City and attended the Cooper Union Art school in 1930. While participating in the Federal Arts Project, he worked for the program's mural department until 1941. As well, he worked with an artist collective, Siqueiros Art Workshop. There, Rosen met fellow FAP artist Jackson Pollack, and together, with artist Phillip Guston, they experimented with new painting techniques and mediums. Art movements are often reactions to the popular styles that precede them, and Abstract Expressionism applied a new and exciting method to Modern Art. Gradually, artists began to break away from an overly-studied, academic approach to painting and liberated their technique. During these workshops, Rosen was introduced to Pollack's groundbreaking "drip painting" before it changed the art world.
As America became involved in World War II, the Federal Arts Project wound down, officially ending in 1942. Around this time, Rosen enlisted as a Merchant Seaman with the U.S Merchant Marines. During this time, he traveled to North Africa and Italy before concluding his service and moving to California where, in 1945, he devoted his full attention to building an art career. Within a couple of years, he landed a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1947, and his first one-man show, which opened to rave reviews, was held at Hollywood's Contemporary Art Gallery. The exhibition’s success led to mural commissions from Palm Springs' Hotel del Tahquitz, and he scored more solo shows at West Hollywood's Chabot Gallery.
The early 1950s brought a surge of recognition for Rosen's career, and while his work was certainly still influenced by Abstract Expression, his painting style included elements of Surrealism, Figurative Art, and Cubism. Like his colleague Jackson Pollack, Rosen produced work inspired by drip painting; however, rather than splattering, his drips were the natural flow marks from painting freely without regard for "mistakes." Throughout Rosen's long career, he would acquire techniques from vastly different art styles which made for a varied, eclectic catalog of work.
Rosen continued to build his California art career and settled at a Laguna Beach art colony in 1958. There, he entered his work in the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts and was the first painter to contribute Abstract Art to the event. Rosen would participate in the festival for the next fifteen years. A year after his move, in 1959, Rosen opened his first studio gallery and began a 12-year collaboration with the Laguna Playhouse. For the next two decades, Rosen participated in 17 art exhibitions and 20 solo shows, and received considerable critical praise.
Rosen's themes were as varied as his evolving painting style, and one of his themes focused on classic characters like Shakespeare's Hamlet. Rosen's close-up portraits of historical and literary figures, illustrated by the piece To Be or Not to Be: Soliloquy From Hamlet, capture the essence of the characters while remaining loose with the painting and even adding a slight cartoon feel. His ongoing Hamlet series, as a complete collection, makes an impact with the diversity of technique. Unlike the loose style of some of his works, the painting Madaam... that he is mad is true is influenced by the structure of Cubism, the flat dimensions of Byzantine Art, and his utilization of mixed media.
After Rosen's death in 2004, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts sponsored an exhibition of his Hamlet paintings at the Wells Fargo Building gallery. Throughout Rosen's career, he amassed a great deal of critical, industry, and public praise for his work. His beloved town of Laguna Beach bestowed numerous awards that include the Laguna Beach Annual Art Gallery Award and Orange County's Annual Exhibit Award. Rosen's work flourished in California, and he received recognition from the San Diego County Fair, Los Angeles' Miracle Mile Annual Show, and California's Museum of History and Art which, in 1993, presented a 50-year retrospective of his work.