Holding the Line: Ceramic Sculpture by Stanley Rosen

Stanley Rosen

Holding the Line, ceramic sculptor Stanley Rosen’s (MFA Alfred ‘56) retrospective is revelatory. Rosen has long been a quiet visionary. His little known work from the late 1950’s, 1960’s and 70’s will astonish. This exhibition provokes a serious reassessment of twentieth century ceramic art confirming Stanley Rosen as one of the major ceramic artist of our time.

Stanley Rosen earned a BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA at Alfred University, 1956.  He was a teacher and studio manager at Greenwich House Pottery in New York during the 1950s and joined the art faculty at Bennington College in Vermont in 1960. At Bennington, Rosen led the ceramics department for many years and inspired a generation of ceramic artists. He currently lives and works in North Bennington, Vermont, where he maintains an ongoing studio practice.

Jamie Franklin curator at the Bennington Art Museum, which originated the Stanley Rosen retrospective writes in the accompanying catalogue:

For more than sixty years, Stanley Rosen has been creating evocative, abstract ceramic sculptures that seem to quiver with a mysterious spark of life. However, for decades Rosen’s work has been stored in his studio and in the root cellar of his home in North Bennington, Vermont, largely inaccessible to the public, or even the majority of his students, until recently. It has gone almost completely under the radar within the wider ceramic and fine art worlds for much of his career. Instead, his reputation has been that of an extraordinary teacher, nurturing his students’ work rather than promoting his own. While Rosen’s work features notably in Rose Slivka’s seminal 1961 article “A New Ceramic Presence,” which codified one of the most important movements in the history of twentieth-century American ceramics while it was still nascent, his sculptures have been exhibited and published only sporadically. Despite this relative lack of attention, Rosen’s work has been known to and respected by a small circle of fellow ceramic artists ranging from a few of his students at Bennington College, many of whom have gone on to successful professional careers, to titans in the field, including Peter Voulkos and Robert Turner.

The reasons for the lack of widespread recognition of Rosen’s work are many and complex. Rosen works largely in service to his own inner imperatives. He cites “The Tightrope Walker,” an essay by the French existentialist writer Jean Genet, in which the author urges artists to work passionately in the service of their medium, without taking any heed of input from others: “nothing— especially not applause or laughter—will keep you from dancing for your image. . . . Dance alone, then. Pale, livid, anxious to please or displease your image: But it is your image that will dance for you.” In this spirit, Rosen is his own toughest critic, embracing the idiosyncratic and pushing his work into unknown and often uncomfortable territory. He creates “difficult” objects that make the viewer question stereotypical notions of taste.