When I first encountered Ben Rozsa’s artwork, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Not in terms of whether or not it was well thought out or visually appealing, but in terms of style. I’m an art nerd, so the breakdown of style is something I twerk over. I was torn between recognition of tribal themes – obviously including Native Americans – but also elements of modern day street art, surrealism, and even expressionism. All over the map, yet cohesive and singular, Ben Rozsa is a great example as to why art in the 2010s is so exciting.
“To me, tribal/native people/traditions symbolize a kind of pure, more innocent humanity. Intuitively seeks harmony with its creator, and its environment. Without the crippling insecurities, hyper-inflated fear of awkwardness, dull throbbing self-doubt that keeps us from doing what we’d really, really like to do,” Rozsa says.
One piece that struck me right off the bat was “Native Tongues,” an acrylic painting on plywood that was cut to an irregular shape, allowing the action portion of the painting to further intensify by literally “leaping off the page.” I’ve seen a great many artists attempt to break free of the rectangle or square, but often fail. In this case the usage is subtle, despite its size and effect.
“Native Tongues,” along with other paintings such as “Rantin’ and Raven” and “Logos,” are part of a series where Rozsa sought to remove all of the negative contexts and symbols from human spirituality, take them completely out of the picture and “see if what was left could be as beautiful as I hoped it could be.” The main intention of these paintings was to create a snapshot of a being, “caught in a pure expression,” while interacting personally with God.
When asked about how he felt about art in general, Rozsa had this to say: “What I get most excited about is the freedom to communicate/express very personal and vulnerable concepts and experiences, hopefully ones that can inspire even if you can’t make rational sense of why. I try to avoid as many preconceived notions as possible.” He continued, “My other favorite thing is putting ancient kinds of truths and spiritual insights and perspectives into new ‘translations’; kind of synthesizing spirituality and science. I’m a little – a lot – obsessed with the idea. I love that I can say things with nobody rushing me, or arguing with me, or trying to correct every little detail. My goal is basically to make a point that you will stare at, try to figure out, and hopefully not be able to argue with. I just want people to see what I have seen, and love what I have found to be lovely.”
A testament to the diversity found here in Corvallis, keep your eyes peeled around town for signs of Rozsa’s work. There is a collection hanging at Downtown Dance (223 NW 2nd Street) until the end of September.
By Johnny Beaver