Everyday Magic at Jewish Museum Milwaukee's 'Adolph Rosenblatt Retrospective'
Before there was Instagram and Snapchat, there was an artist who made sketches in clay, crafting iconic images of everyday Milwaukee. In fired ceramic, he cast vignettes of favorite haunts like the Oriental Theatre balcony, the Gay Gardens restaurant and others, documenting life through sculpture. “Moments and Markers: An Adolph Rosenblatt Retrospective” at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, presents the work of this artist who took life around him as the inspiration for his art.
Rosenblatt (1933-2017) had an early interest in art and, when of college age, assembled a portfolio that was seen by the esteemed German-born American artist Josef Albers (1888-1976), who opened doors for him to enter Yale Art School. Rosenblatt eventually landed in Milwaukee, becoming a respected member of the art community and professor emeritus at UW-Milwaukee. All along, he continued to create sculptures and paintings reflective of life around him.
The monumental Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter is a centerpiece of the show. In three-dimensional form, Rosenblatt reproduces the lantern light fixtures and the horseshoe counters inhabited by patrons. Everybody converses, glances at others or gets lost in their own space. They all have Rosenblatt’s characteristic touch as the details of their clothing and faces are richly textured and toned. It is a capsule of the landmark establishment where denizens of all walks of life came to meet and eat.
On a more intimate scale, Sauna presents a quintet of men and women of a certain age in bathing suits lounging on benches with languid attitudes that comes with comforting dry heat. They casually chat, unconcerned of their personal appearance and fully attentive to their companions. Like all of his pieces, it is so very different from the hypersensitivity to image that characterizes today’s selfies and social media posturing, adding an additional aura of authenticity and importance to this exhibition.
As a retrospective, the dozens of pieces in the show are instructive and offer insight into the earlier paintings and sculptures by the artist. But most of all, “Moments and Markers” is a glimpse into a chapter of a neighborhood—its personalities coming alive again through the artist’s touch.
Through Aug. 27 at Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N. Prospect Ave. For more information, visit jewishmuseummilwaukee.org.