What does the past look like? For many of us, the 1960s, 50s and even parts of the 70s are a smattering of images - Go Go boots stalking downtown New York, feline eyes in the rearview mirror of a Mustang and Neil Armstrong adrift in the milky way, eyes cast towards a far off earth. But, as visceral as they may be, these events are not really our memories. Why then, do they feel so familiar?
In his work, Steve Rosendale conjures and toys with this phenomena. It all began when he was a child, watching reruns of Mission Impossible, James Bond and Alfred Hitchcock. Even then, he was struck by their ‘vintage’ aesthetics. “The film stock… had a faded pastel quality to it and the characters and stories were more dramatic and idealized than what we see now,” he reflects.
Set in the noirish backstreets of 1950s New York, sepia-toned Los Angeles, rain-slicked Collins Street or the last hour before Times Square explodes, Rosendale sets up an enthralling mise-en-scene. He elongates a flicker of film into an entire, self-contained universe. The sense lingers that something is happening just beyond the frame. Mystery, drama, suspense stew. This is a cinematic subterfuge at its finest.
Rosendale describes his process as instinctual. Rather than seek out a specific image, “I sift through hundreds of films and photographs until one catches my eye”. Just like memory itself, it is mood, colour, vibe that he hunts - not exactitudes. The results are gripping. They transport us into a time that never really existed, a film that we can’t quite remember the end of, but want to.
Why is Rosendale’s vision so seductive? Like the world of Mr. Bond, popular culture’s past is a fantasy - a myth we tell ourselves about what was, is and will be. It is also a time where style mattered. The artist observes that in this aspirational world, “there was more focus on beauty and design and craft. Something that people seem to have no time or patience for these days”.
For those of us who still value beauty, Rosendale’s work is a welcome escape. A finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and widely collected, he marks a thrilling find for collectors of contemporary and pop art. Tune in now and make-believe better days.
To discover Steve Rosendale's full collection, click here.
To read our interview with the artist in full, click here.