At the Rose House: a look into the legacy of James Rose

Landscape architect James Rose’s legacy explored in show at his midcentury New Jersey home

Green River Project and Object & Thing inspect 20th-century landscape architect James Rose’s legacy in a display of art, furniture and objects, both historic and contemporary

The legacy of the 20th-century American landscape architect James Rose (1913 – 1991) is thrust into the spotlight, thanks to a new exhibition of contemporary art and design installed in his preserved, idiosyncratic midcentury home and garden in the suburbs of Ridgewood, New Jersey (9 September – 2 October 2022). Handbuilt by Rose, known for his use of readymade materials and pioneering approach of fusing the indoors and outdoors, the home, which now functions as the non-profit James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design, is an inspiring and tactile example of the architect’s philosophy, in design, spirituality and beyond.

Titled ‘At the Rose House’, the exhibition is organised by New York-based design firm Green River Project and art and design platform Object & Thing – known for its collaborative, site-specific shows within 20th-century artists’ and architects’ homes – and celebrates Rose’s design accomplishments by highlighting the extent of his influence, both then and now.

The James Rose Center, New Jersey, former home of landscape architect James Rose (1913 – 1991) that was both designed and built by him in 1953. Photo by Michael Biondo

By bringing in objects, art and furniture by both Rose’s contemporaries, such as Charles and Ray Eames, Nancy Holt and Anne Truitt, and today’s rising talents, such as new furniture by Green River Project, chairs from the artist Hugh Hayden, ceramics by Johnny Ortiz-Concha, as well as garments by the fashion label Bode that are inspired by Rose’s personal style and eccentricity, the exhibition emphasises the ingenuity and value of the handmade by capturing how fleeting and rare these unique aspects can be.

For Green River Project, bringing this exhibition to life had an especially poignant significance. ‘The ease in which Rose expanded the home using ready-made materials was an early reference for our practice,’ says Aaron Aujla, who co-founded the company with Ben Bloomstein. ‘In particular, there is a kitchen with mahogany shelves and pegboard that we must have spent over one hundred hours dissecting and referring back to over the last five years. Ben and I also started Green River Project as a gallery, in the barn of his family’s farm in upstate New York, so organising this exhibition with [Object & Thing’s] Abby [Bangser] was a great exercise that brought us back to one of our original goals.’

Anne Truitt, Rice-Paper Drawing 14, 1965, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. Green River Project LLC, Rose Coffee Table, 2022. ‘At The Rose House’: Green River Project LLC and Object & Thing at The James Rose Center. Photo courtesy of Green River Project LLC

To honour the milestone, Green River Project has created new work with Rose’s spirit in mind. Imagined as if he were making work today, the studio also unveiled pieces made with longtime collaborators and members of their team, such as a cast metal side chair by Bloomstein Industrial,  a wooden chair in Rose’s mother;s room Luck Carpentry and rice paper lamps from Preziosi Lighting that can be seen in the dining room, as well as elsewhere.

To accompany several of the artworks that are being displayed, such as paintings by Louis Eisner and Matt Kenny, Green River Project also created new frames that nod to Rose’s existing interventions in the house. The firm also created a rosewood  pedestal to accompany an edition of Charles and Ray Eames’ Plywood Sculpture, 1941, which is being released by Eames Office for the first time.

Works pictured on fireplace, left to right: Matt Kenny, Goya’s Still Life with Golden Bream, 2022, with Green River Project LLC walnut frame. Green River Project LLC, Mask, 2022, and Rose Armchair, 2022. ’At The Rose House’ Green River Project LLC and Object & Thing at The James Rose Center. Photo courtesy of Green River Project LLC

At one time the home of Rose, his sister and his mother, the James Rose Center eventually became a place where research, design and rebellion against the norm is celebrated. Its unique, two-storey structure, which features an open-air upper floor, as well as self-made pools, ponds and fountains that can be seen through the house’s windows, would be rare to find today. 

‘Rose was an impossible maverick, called by one author “the James Dean of Landscape Architecture”, but I think he would be very happy with the vision Green River Project LLC and Object & Thing have brought to his house,’ says Dean Cardasis, director of the James Rose Center. ‘We look forward to welcoming new audiences throughout the exhibition.’ §

Lonnie Holley, Without Skin, 2020, © Lonnie Holley / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. Glass vessels by Paul Arnhold, 2022. Hugh Hayden, Upholstered Adirondack Chair, 2022, courtesy Lisson Gallery. ’At The Rose House’ Green River Project LLC and Object & Thing at The James Rose Center. Photo courtesy of Green River Project LLC

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