Leonard Rosenfeld’s (1926–2009) creative journey spanned the period from post-WWII through the Iraq Wars. A deeply narrative artist, his life and work reflect the New York and world events throughout this period, in effect, as bookends to the world of art and the times in which he lived and worked.
Rosenfeld was raised in Brooklyn, New York. After serving in WWII, he studied at the Art Students League. He was one of many artists who frequented the famous Cedar Tavern in the 1950s, including Willem DeKooning, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock. Younger than the Abstract Expressionists, he found his own voice. While describing himself as an Expressionist, “painting with a combination of abandon and discipline,” and largely influenced by such expressionist painters as Vincent van Gogh, Rosenfeld did not attach himself to any particular “movement.” He considered himself an “outlaw,” flirting and experimenting with a variety of materials and seeking out new, and sometimes challenging, subjects.
Rosenfeld chronicled the space program, the hookers and pimps who populated his downtown neighborhood, graffiti artists, subjects Mexican from his numerous travels to that country, 9/11 (having experienced it living and working one block away) and soldiers at war. He went from expressionistic gritty drawings of the elevated trains and construction sites in Brooklyn and Queens and large oil paintings of astronauts, to “rag paintings” with pieces of (sometimes painted) canvas wrapped around stripped stretchers, to large mixed media works made of wire and crushed spray-cans. His legacy can only be described as one of unique, dynamic, yet consistently disciplined, versatility, in subject matter and artistic innovation. He was always ahead of his time.
Rosenfeld’s work has been exhibited in many one-man, two-person and group shows, including with the Martha Jackson Gallery, the OK Harris Gallery of Ivan Karp and the Brooklyn Museum. He is represented in numerous private collections in the US and internationally, as well as the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.