I’ll BE HAPPY WHEN is a solo exhibition by Jonathan Rosen consisting of six new large-scale collages from his signature ‘I WANT’ series that continues the exploration of his deepest desires. With each new artwork, fulfilled dream or life milestone, Rosen has become more aware of the elusive happiness he’s been chasing. While each artwork is personal, it universally resonates with anyone that is afflicted with the struggle of his or her own unfulfilled desires. ‘Wanting’ is inherently egocentric, but humanity collectively shares a predisposition to want more and places conditions on ourselves (and others) to measure our happiness. These desires and the ones found in Rosen’s artworks can be both social and isolating, empty and excessive and make us feel hope or hopelessness in our pursuit of them.
Rosen’s work acknowledges our common ground with carefully executed collages containing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of collected materials he has chosen for each given piece. Just as every dream is unique, each work never uses the same material twice. Rosen’s pairing of media and the written word are innate and appear to "occur" with multiple interpretations in each 48x72 canvas. With I’ll BE HAPPY WHEN, Rosen seeks to further explore a new collection of media ranging from Barbie Dolls to interactive technology. I WANT TO BE GOOD, both playful and sentimental, reminds us of our adolescent desire to please and be rewarded through hundreds of Boy Scout patches. Alternately, I WANT TO BE ENLIGHTENED adorned with LSD blotter sheets, reveals a desire for metabolized insight. With each piece, the desire is punched out of the center to expose a cut-out negative space; bringing to mind the void of an unfulfilled dream or perhaps worse, a dream-realized that didn’t make us whole.
The centerpiece of I’ll BE HAPPY WHEN is a collaboration with art-tech collective Imaginary Media. A mirror stands in the middle of the room with the phrase I WANT glowing on its surface while hundreds of desires flash in a rapid succession below the phrase. While the flashing may appear chaotic, scrambled and illegible, the piece suggests to the viewer that the number of dreams are infinite. By nature, the mirror inevitably coaxes us into looking at ourselves, and many will follow that action with a compulsive and habitual selfie. It is here hidden in our phone’s photo album that a message is revealed, offering an unexpected interruption of our curated social personas by leveraging the selfie as a means of reflection.
Arguably, it is our ego that both fuels our desires and holds us back from achievement when the dream is faced with failure. I’LL BE HAPPY WHEN brings the artist’s own, and in turn others’, desires to light through a celebratory and playful display, asking us to take a closer look at a question that nags most of us, yet often evades words: What do you really want?