“We all wore ice skates because this was a marriage on thin ice.”
At the age of 28 the currently Chicago based artist Barbara Rossi ceased to be a bride of Christ and after the divorce she went on to obtain her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then become a professor of painting and drawing for the institution.
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Rossi was an active member the Chicago Imagists; a pop art inspired movement that sourced surrealism, Art Brut, and comics for their inspiration rather than New York’s pop art that sourced commercial advertising and popular illustration for inspiration.
As the Chicago private art dealer Karen Lennox has said, "One was very personal, the other anti-personal."
An observation supported by Rossi in the video Marriage Chicago Style “We were in the middle of the Vietnam War. We had lots of protests against our government, we had also lots of protests against our way of treating certain people. Younger people were actually asked to know what they were about; to know themselves.”
It is this journey of self-discovery that impels Rossi’s work, if at times tongue in cheek, as she explores her original relationship that has become an ongoing friendship that still exists even after the divorce albeit colored by her travels in India and Asia..
As The Renaissance Society’s Joe Scanlan wrote about her 1991 exhibition of selected works “These paintings could be seen as representing the piling up in one's mind of variously-shaped information, experiences, or memories; as exotic but burdensome "emotional baggage" people often accumulate in their lives; or Rossi's implicit awareness and reversal of society's overemphasis on surface appearances, as in hair styles, plastic surgery, or cosmetics. In these paintings it is the beauty and intensity of Rossi's endeavor that enriches her work and creates its sensual and tactile appearance.”
About Rossi’s 1981 painting Double Crossing Lonesome Valley (see above) the LA Times David Pagel wrote “Rossi’s shapes, painted slightly different shades of the same colors, evoke a flock of improbable associations, some tasteful, even prim, others sensuous, nearly salacious. If a bouquet of flowers mated with a vase, its offspring might resemble the abstract figures.”
Whereas the artist considers the painting to be “a picture of two sandals making their way through the desert.”
Rossi’s current exhibition Barbara Rossi: Poor Traits is on show at New York’s New Museum until the 3rd of January.