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Momentum: an experiment in the unexpected

Carl Rohrs

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    Susan Manchester
    Solstice, 1998
    78 x 48 inches
    Pastel, graphite, and conte crayon on paper
    Gift of Barbara and William Hyland, Monterey California in memory of Burrel Leonard, Cupertino, California


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    Carl Rohrs, sketch for response to Susan Manchester’s Solstice

Born 1951, Geneva, Illinois
Lives and works in Santa Cruz, California

Changing Direction, 2014
Cut paper calligraphy, Thonet chair, and MDO
Chosen artwork: Solstice (1998) by Susan Manchester

Although text is the primary focus of calligrapher Carl Rohrs’s work, he is less concerned with what it says than with the form and the aesthetics of the lettering. Intrigued by a number of the artworks included in the collection, he decided to intervene with Solstice when he realized he owned a chair identical to the one depicted in Susan Manchester’s drawing—a Thonet chair manufactured in Czechoslovakia. Rohrs’s chair, its caning missing, became the foundation for layers of calligraphy, cut paper, and elaborate lettering. Enigmatic quotations and phrases in English and Czech that make reference to the solstice—a moment of standing still—are lashed to the iconic curves of the Thonet bentwood frame. The references to the celestial sphere and astronomical events are concealed or revealed, depending on the viewer’s vantage point. The circular burned-away area of the quotation on the base is an additional secondary response by Rohrs—to Andy Goldsworthy’s Burnt Patch.

Carl Rohrs is a lettering artist, typographer, sign maker, and graphic designer. In addition to teaching calligraphy and graphic design for the Cabrillo College Art Department in Aptos, California, he teaches intensive workshops for calligraphy societies throughout the United States and in Europe, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. His calligraphy is represented in many publications and collections, including the San Francisco Public Library's Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering, in the Book Arts and Special Collections Center.