Collection Spotlight: The Family by Seymour Rosofsky

Staff at the Block Museum recently began sharing their favorite works from our collection with each other on a weekly basis. Now we’ve decided to let you in on the fun. Check back for a new object every week.

April 2, 2012

Seymour Rosofsky, The Family, 1968, lithograph. Gift of the Estate of Seymour Rosofsky, 2011.11.18.

I wanted to present artwork by a Chicago artist. I was leaning more towards Leon Golub, but I realized that Seymour Rosofsky was also from Chicago. I was also looking at a third Chicago artist, Margaret Burroughs, and a print called Extended Family. But the Burroughs work stirred up some sentimental feelings, so I selected Rosofsky’s The Family instead.

But you can’t run from your feelings. While I was studying The Family and appreciating its humor, I was hit with some more sensitive feelings. The two main figures in The Family look like a grandmother and grandfather to me. This is the anniversary of my grandmother passing away two years ago and my grandfather ten years ago. They were very humorous and they enjoyed themselves. The man and woman in The Family seem to be enjoying themselves, too. You may ask what gave me that impression. Well, they’re nude.

The Family is a little gothic as well, and that’s one of the attributes of Seymour Rosofsky’s work. He liked to hit that dark side. But what I learned from this artwork is that you need to go beyond the obvious. As I was deciphering the image, it came to me that this is a behavior the man and woman do every night. The couple’s body structures are somewhat robotic. Robots are programmed to do something consistently and if you don’t reprogram them, they’ll just keep repeating the same actions. Not too many elderly people are going to keep on with this consistent routine over and over, unless they have a relationship with one another.

The baby in the foreground of the print may be Rosofsky looking at this from his childhood. The artist often utilized dreams in his work. The large bugs, the octopus-like figures on the piano and the double moons in the sky—they all seem to indicate a dream world.

—Aaron Chatman, security assistant

You can make an appointment to see this work and others from the Block Museum’s permanent collection. Email or see Visit the Study Center for more information.

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