Theodore Roszak (1907-1981)

October 21, 2003 - November 29, 2003

Selected Artworks · Press Release · Review

Theodore Roszak
Untitled,  1937-41
gelatin silver photogram
9-15/16 x 8 inches
Theodore Roszak (1907-1981)
Zabriskie Gallery exhibits a selection of photograms, several drawings, and a sculpture by Theodore Roszak. Most of these works date from the 1930s, a period influenced by Bauhaus formalism and constructivist concerns. His sculptures before 1945 combine primary colors, constructed of spheres, rings, lucite bars, plexiglas, and cubes of wood. Roszak made streamlined arrangement of such geometric forms that epitomized sleek modernism. Often, these same sculptural objects translated directly to the output of his more ethereal photograms.

Theodore Roszak was born in Poznan, Poland in 1907 and brought to the United States two years later by his parents. He studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago early on under teachers that included John Norton, Boris Anisfeld, and Charles F. Kelley. He was introduced to modernism during a stint to Europe in 1929 and 1930, learning about Bauhaus aesthetics from Czech and Polish constructivists. By the time he returned to the United States, he had already purchased Moholy-Nagy's The New Vision, a pioneering study on constructivist principles.

In addition to the color constructions, he also made "light modulators" in the early 30s that were carved, shallow reliefs. The works Roszak produced in the 30s and 40s affirmed a commitment to modernism in its positivist ideologies that combined science, technology, and humanism. He was the consummate machinist and sculptor, inventing objects that were "remarkably zany in spirit considering their meticulous Bauhaus restraint" (Beth Urdang). Roszak was thus as much pragmatist as he was dreamer, having at one point built a telescope to view the cosmos, which to him signaled a distinct link between "nature" and abstract art. This resolve is perhaps most apparent in his photograms, which are celestial-like, eclipsed shapes and forms rendered by the same instruments of science he used in his sculpture. Their subtlety and value range owe to his color sensitivities as a painter, and often he was able to produce great depth in these black and white images despite the essentially "flat" photographic method employed.

Roszak ceased making the photograms by 1941. After the war, and as a result of these philosophically shifting events, the constructivist influences of his earlier works were replaced by more organic and expressive forms. They were literal sculptures that he felt were more in tune with current world order as opposed to the more intellectual photograms and constructions.

Theodore Roszak's works are represented in major public and private collections around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Zabriskie has exhibited his works in a number of exhibitions in Paris and New York since 1978.

Please join us at a reception to view the Theodore Roszak exhibition on Tuesday, October 21, from 6-8pm.