Leonard Rosenfeld
Delancey St. Pimp with an owl, 1983, watercolor, oil pastel on canvas, 21.75 x 25 in, 55.245 x 63.5 cm
Leonard RosenfeldLeonard RosenfeldLeonard RosenfeldLeonard RosenfeldLeonard RosenfeldLeonard Rosenfeld

Hookers and Pimps  A deeply narrative artist, of course Rosenfeld could not help but chronicle the street life in his lower east side neighborhood. When he moved into his Forsyth Street loft in 1958, prostitutes and pimps populated the landscape. He heard them arguing and witnessed more than that. There was a standing joke among the women who used to hang out on the front steps of his building. As he stepped out, they invariably grabbed him by the crotch and asked, “How about a date, Pop?” to which he would always reply, in deep voice, “Stay cool, baby,” evoking laughter on all sides. One of his paintings on the subject, called, “Stay cool, baby,” now hangs in the home of a Swedish collector. When asked during an interview in 1986 what he would advise the young artist, he stressed the importance of history: “Work…work…and don’t neglect history.” Indeed, certain of these works show the influence of the Dutch master Franz Hals, with the big wide brim hats, as in The Candy Man, Dutch Pimp and The Remembrance of Things Past (in which you can also see in the distant right corner the image of a slave ship, a different kind of historical reference, possibly reflecting the artist’s view on the captive-like nature of the “oldest profession”).

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