“Felix at the Rose”

Joyce Pensato’s “Felix at the Rose” is a giant wall mural that dominates the space alongside the Foster Stairwell. The mural consists of the eyes of the cartoon character Felix the Cat, a character created during the silent film era. 

Painted in what seems to be a purposefully messy fashion on the backdrop of an all-white wall, the eyes are thick, black circles with uneven edges. Splattered black paint surrounds the eyes as if dripping from them. 

While it appears that only black paint was used in the creation of the eyes, according to a plaque about the exhibit, the eyes were created with black and white paint applied in several alternating layers that give the mural a thick texture. 

The paint used in the mural is a special enamel paint that adds an intense glossiness to the eyes. 

Overall, the mural is a chilling depiction of Felix the Cat. Felix’s eyes create the sensation of being watched and give the seemingly innocent cartoon and comic book character an air of wickedness. The eyes even continue to watch you from outside the Rose, where they can be seen through glass windows. 

“Felix at the Rose” is just one of several murals by Pensato that give cartoon and comic book characters a darker edge. 

According to information in a pamphlet provided by the Rose, Pensato is giving familiar cartoon characters “psychological charge and emboldening them with aggressive, gestural physicality.” 

Even more, Joyce is “revealing a darker side of American Pop."   

—Jaime Gropper

“LA/MA: ‘60s Pop From Both Coasts

“LA/MA” is an exhibit that brings together the great works of pop art produced on opposite sides of the country. The works of prominent 1960s East Coast artists such as Roy Lichenstein, Marisol Escobar and Andy Warhol share the space with the works of great West Coast artists such as Judy Chicago, Joe Goode and Llyn Foulkes. 

“Forget It! Forget Me!,” created in 1962 by Roy Lichenstein, has the characteristic style of some pop art pieces by being a single frame of a cartoon. 

In this image, the speech bubble says “Forget it! Forget me! I’m fed up with your kind!” which can be taken as a commentary on gender roles. The traditional husband and wife figures are in the piece, but although under traditional stereotype you might expect the wife to be saying this to her husband, it is the husband who is saying it to the wife while sulking. 

Billy Al Bengston’s “Godzilla’s Saddle” is a piece of pop art that literally appears to pop out of the wall. A large, bright red shape, similar to that of a plus-sign in the center of the piece, overlaps a darker red circle. This tonal contrast, along with the sharp color contrast of the green background dotted with orange spots, helps to create the three-dimensional illusion. 

“LA/MA” showcases the American Pop Art that is characteristic of the Rose. According to information provided by the Rose, “LA/MA,” with its works gathered from different time and all over, is intended to also “tell a story about museum collecting.” 

—Jaime Gropper

“The Right to Clean” 

The Rose Art Museum’s newest video installation, “The Right to Clean” (2015), comes courtesy of Nina Pereg and is a collaboration between the Rose and the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. An interest in historically significant sites led Pereg to create the exhibition, which includes four videos: “Border,” “Surface,” “Clare” and “Francis.” The videos range from close-ups of historical and religious sites to films of street performers and pigeons. 

Just outside of the viewing room, “The Drummer (Le Batteur)” shows a soldier playing a steady beat on a large drum in front of a barbed wire fence, partially obscuring a sign that says, “Danger, Mines!” in English and in Hebrew. The video was part of Pereg’s 2013 series “Mandatory Passage,” about a percussionist and the intersection of different faith groups in Israel and Jordan.

Walking into the pitch-black video gallery and seeing four glowing screens, each at different heights and angles, is at once disorienting and mesmerizing. “Surface” showcases the Stone of Unction, a stone where — according to Christian tradition — Jesus was prepared for his burial. People interact with the stone in unique ways, kissing it, bowing to it and tracing the cracks that run through its surface. This screen in particular was captivating; it was interesting to see how different people interacted with a site they revere. 

“Clare” depicts a nun who cleans different parts of the Stone of Unction. 

This video focuses on the mundane, showing the nun sweeping the same halls over and over again. Overall, the exhibit’s focus on the seemingly mundane aspects of religious worship — the upkeep of famous religious sites, or the way specific people pray — presents an in-depth portrayal of the many ways people relate to these significant sites

  —Brooke Granovsky

“Jason Rhoades: Multiple Deviations”

“Jason Rhoades: Multiple Deviations,” the retrospective-esque exhibit showcasing the titular artist’s work, is an overwhelming but intellectually stimulating experience. The space is filled with mostly large-scale and three-dimensional pieces spaced throughout. According to the wall text, Rhoades is best known for “sprawling installations.” But this is the first exhibit to focus on his “Editions” — works that he made copies of on a grand scale. 

Three of the pieces relate to Rhoades’ self-invented concoction, PeaRoeFoam. “PeaRoeFoam Bulk Pallet” (2000) is a pile of materials used to make the PeaRoeFoam, wrapped in a clear plastic. The piece contains the ingredients that go into the substance — peas, glue, salmon roe, Styrofoam beads. “1724 Birth of the Cunt” (2004) is an embroidered thesaurus of sorts — detailing 1,724 of the terms that have been used to refer to female genitalia throughout history. The beautiful pink book is decorated with intricate needlework that seems strange when contrasted with some of the more vulgar words in the book. It is open to the synonyms that start with R — “Rough-And-Ready,” “Rosebud” and “Roast Beef Curtain” — to name a few. 

The title of “The Future is Filled with Opportunities (Rideable Steer)” (1995) pretty much exemplified, for me, what Rhoades was trying to say with it. The “steer” is made up of mostly synthetic materials  —  a Go Ped scooter, buckets and a flashlight, among others. The only part of the piece that comes directly from the actual animal depicted is the horns. In the corresponding video, Rhoades rides the steer, which moves at a surprisingly fast rate, as he attempts to lasso a bucket.The video demonstrates an almost otherworldly universe where it seems natural for a man to be riding a machine shaped like a bull. Perhaps in the future we will all be riding around on “rideable” synthetic creatures just to see if we can. 

—Emily Wishingrad

“Mark Dion: The Undisciplined Collector”

Mark Dion’s permanent installation for the Rose, “The Undisciplined Collector,” transforms a small corner of the museum into what is uncannily passable as a living room. 

The centerpiece of the room is a couch and surrounding it are the usual accoutrements of a homey space — a television, a table with magazines, a coat rack, an umbrella holder. 

There are also many cupboards filled with small knickknacks — everything from shot glasses to medicine to bottle openers. 

But from the looks of a few of the cupboards, it is clear why the installation is called “The Undisciplined Collector.” 

One holds small tiny decorative glass bottles, arranged neatly and precisely in a rows. The museum website notes that the installation is furnished with items from a collector’s den in 1961. The antiquity is apparent in the old record player, the old television and the magazines from the early 1960s. The website notes that the installation aims to pay homage to the year of the Rose’s founding in 1961. 

The coziness of the installation deviates from the typical museum environment. The fact that museum-goers are allowed in and can touch and pick up objects as they please, is very counterintuitive to the traditional, nearly omnipresent “no touch” policies of most art institutions. However, there is no notice regarding the touching policy — which may provide a confusing and possibly incomplete experience for a viewer. Isolated from the rest of the museum, viewers are able to have a solitary moment of reflection.

The installation was donated by Peter Norton, a computer scientist and philanthropist who also gave 41 works to the Rose last March. 

    —Emily Wishingrad

“Lisa Yuskavage: The Broods”

Lisa Yuskavage’s exhibition, “Lisa Yuskavage: The Broods” showcases women in a variety of settings. 

The exhibition, on view through Dec. 13 at the Lois Foster Gallery, shows portraits of women without shirts or pants, in addition to portraits where women gaze out confidently in the viewers’ eyes. Yuskavage uses bright colors and hyper-real facial features to underscore a unique mood. 

An informational blurb in the Rose Art Museum best expresses the contrast between the exhibit’s color pallet, subject matter and overall tone. The blurb notes that the “boisterousness of [Yuskavage’s] palette and paint application … amplify the same characteristics found in her subjects to produce paintings that assault the viewer’s eye and tempt the imagination.” 

—Brooke Granovsky