James Romberger's pastels are like calendars of the day to day shift in human resilience under the blind eye of government.
-David Wojnarowicz, 1989
The Gracie Mansion Gallery is pleased to present a show of pastels by James Romberger. A chronicler of urban survival, he opens a door to the day by day life of a Lower Eastsider from the homeless recycling cans at Key Food to the neon glare of the Social Services office. Romberger is a social realist on the level of John Sloan, George Bellows, Reginald Marsh, Thomas Hart Benton and Max Beckmann. With a sympathetic eye to the details of everyday existence, he has been drawing his community for 15 years through the desolution of the 80’s to the gentrification of the 90’s. Romberger captures the rhythm of our city with a photographic mind for detail coupled with an astute sense of light. Relying on memory, he records not the bricks and mortar but the soul. Whether it is Katz’s at twilight or Suffolk Street after midnight, he makes the light physical. Within the darkness of 4th Street Nocturne, there is the light reflected off a street made wet from a recent rain, lit by display window of the liquor store and the headlights of oncoming cars. He tenderly portrays the late night activities of a city that never sleeps. In a backyard view from my apartment, he brought to life the blue light of snow illuminated only by the light of surrounding apartments. You can sense the cold and stillness of the moment caught in time, luminous in its darkness. Romberger’s masterful use of light goes beyond capturing the glow of freshly fallen snow to exposing the beauty in the detritus and the spirit in the homeless and dispossessed. His drawings are a marriage of frankness and compassion.
Romberger's collaboration with Wojnarowicz, the graphic novel "Seven Miles A Second", was exhibited in the New Museum's 1999 "Fever" retrospective and included in MOMA's "Open Ends" in 2000. Romberger was also featured in "New York, New York: the City in Art and Literature", published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001. His drawings are in many private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Parrish Museum, the Newark Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.