Palo Alto JCC features Israeli-American artist Edo Rosenberg

Sculpture retrospective represents a continuum of creativity

Palo Alto's Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, home to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, is a busy place, with a fitness center, a preschool, a café, a theater and wide-ranging community programs, from "Passover Seder" to "Tacos and Ping Pong," offered to members and the public. The campus also lends itself to temporary visual art exhibitions, including the current outdoor display of sculpture by local artist Edo Rosenberg.

Director of Arts and Culture Ronit Widmann-Levy shared some of the criteria used in choosing artists.

"We look for a diverse range of artists and mediums, mainly from the Bay Area. There have been painters, sculptors and photographers who have grappled with different aspects of the human condition. Some of our artists are immigrants and tell the story of their journey. Others have investigated design across cultures."

Edo Rosenberg is a good example of such an artist. He is an immigrant (he came to the U.S. from Israel with his parents at the age of 5) with a multicultural background. His childhood was spent both here and in Israel, where he went to high school. He attended art school in Tel Aviv in the early 1970s, then had to fulfill his military commitment. Afterwards, he traveled around Africa and then began graduate study at the California College of the Arts, where he earned an MFA in 1980. He then embarked upon a teaching career, with positions at U.C. Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University. Economic necessity dictated a change in career (he has worked in construction and publishing) but he has always continued to create, not only in sculpture, but also painting and jewelry making. He maintains a studio in San Jose.

"I just love creating and making things," he explained in an email interview. "I have created in many materials: wood, metal, plastic, concrete and yes, even panty hose. There is no material that is the only one, I like them all. They all come with their own language and it's my job to make them speak about me."

Rosenberg said some of his sculptural influences include Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Mark de Suvero and David Smith. Reflections of their styles and techniques can be seen in the three large-scale and eight maquettes (small-scale models) that have been installed on the JCC campus. The three large pieces, located in the main plaza, are evocative of the minimalist style, using just three or four main forms that are joined, as Rosenberg explains, "in a sculptural language that speak in weight, mass and line balance."

Blade I consists of steel slabs that meet in an apex, creating a structure in which oppositional forces create a balance in weight and form. Playing the Edge with Ladder, on the other hand, is a much lighter-looking piece, with a swooping "ladder" form that is vertically supported by a large, angled column of metal. The third piece, Travel, has a distinctly nautical feeling to it, like an enormous propeller on a ship. The large sculptures have been painted in deep red and brown.

The small maquettes are constructed of Cor-ten steel, a material one might consider rigid and unyielding but in Rosenberg's designs, seems quite pliable. Exposure to the elements has rusted these pieces to a deep brown hue.

In Playing with Curves, a band of steel is curved to form a circle and "fastened" with small bracket. The form is reminiscent of many of Richard Serra's outdoor sculptures, which seem to defy gravity (his Sequence on the Stanford University campus is a good, local example). The other pieces, all of which are installed on pedestals around the main square, consist of one curving form that creates a shape (several form "windows") or just plays with the idea of making a hard material seem light and tensile. Rosenberg explained that the scale models, most of which are recent work, could serve as maquettes for larger pieces, but "they will take more funds and more physical effort to create in large scale."

Placing art in the public realm has its challenges, not the least of which is the potential for damage. Rosenberg said that, while museums and galleries are the optimal places to encounter art, he feels that there is distinctive feedback that an artist gets by putting work in a public place.

"The larger pieces at the JCC speak for themselves to the people who pass by, but they are interactive with all the small children who are there every day. I have watched them stand and look at them and play on them. I know it has changed the space having the artwork there."

The small pieces, he explained, "are more intimate and you need to get close and spend time with them."

And what has been the reaction to having art installed on the campus?

"The pieces have stirred conversations about a range of topics, such as 'how did the pieces get up on the platform?' and 'is this really a dismantled ship's propeller?'" Widmann-Levy said. "And many people naturally try to guess what is the intention behind some of the pieces. Edo likes to leave that to the audience's personal interpretation, as he feels they each relate to it through their own personal lens."

Rosenberg explained that these sculptures are part of a continuum of creativity for him and that he operates from "an inner obsession to make something." The small- scale pieces in the exhibition reflect ideas that were carried on from previous work. Ultimately, he said, "There is a high from putting something together and feeling it works."

Freelance writer Sheryl Nonnenberg can be reached at nonnenberg@aol.com.

What: Edo Rosenberg: Retrospective.

Where: Oshman Family JCC, Arrillaga Family Pavilion, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto.

When: Through May 31.

Cost: Free.

Info: Palo Alto JCC.

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