Leonard Rosenfeld
Purple Heart 1, 2007, oil, gouache on canvas, 48 x 48 in, 121.92 x 121.92 cm
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Soldiers and Terrorists (the Artist’s last major series)  A book review in The New York Times Book Review section of April 4, 2004 caught Rosenfeld’s eye. The book was In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat, by Rick Atkinson. Rosenfeld had been in the army in World War II. Here, he was taken with the photograph of Major Gen. David H. Petraeus, then commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, and his question, “Tell me how this ends?” This question was apparently posed more than once by General Petraeus during the course of the interview by the author. Rosenfeld moved into his Soldiers series, haunted by the past and the future, and the General’s question. The first painting was called Petraeus. It shows a gun and a wing, and the General. Rosenfeld said he did not know how to characterize this, his last, series. As the true Expressionist, he stated, “My main focus was paint.” When asked why he painted so many of the soldiers pink, he said, well DeKooning used a lot of pink. While that was clearly where he was coming from in terms of process (applying what he considered the most difficult medium—oil paint), it is clear that this powerful series tells the many stories that constitute the horrors of war in its reality—not as a video game. What is interesting about this series is that it started very much in an Expressionistic figurative mode, as with Ribbons, Scream, Soldier’s End and T-Man with Ten Guns (reminiscent of Philip Guston’s KKK works) (2004-2006). By 2007, Rosenfeld started using repeating patterns (“a bit Warholish,” in his view), as in Purple Heart 1, Purple Heart 2, Purple Heart 3 and Asshole Buddies. He moved into this because he “got tired of Expressionism.” He considered these pieces more conceptual. The lines in these works were drawn freehand, and he commented on how much better it was than using rulers. The repeated small soldier patterns were stenciled from a cut-out made from a cereal box. And the little soldiers themselves were modeled on a tiny plastic soldier piece which he was given by the host at a holiday gathering, at his request.

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