Artwork and image courtesy Edo Rosenblith
Artwork and image courtesy Edo Rosenblith

Can You Find Toto?

St. Louis artist Edo Rosenblith’s artwork for Art Up Late: Faster is an image you can fall into as you explore its details. A cute, fluffy dog; a frowning traffic cone; billows of purple fumes; bugs; a heart-shaped auto grill; a man running away in a state of panic, smiley face bandaids on his hand. And the barnacle-nosed driver—doesn’t he somehow look familiar, a daredevil from the not-too-distant past?

Rosenblith breaks down a few of the multiple references tucked into his compact composition while signing 300 prints to be sold at CAM. He begins with the genesis of the image. After accepting the commission, he received from the museum a giant folder of the artist Salvatore Scarpitta’s to help him get acquainted with the party’s theme. “I was intrigued by the shapes of his cars, which are not like NASCAR—those are more boxy. These were more like European race cars, Formula I, tube-shaped, and much more dangerous.”

Rosenblith speaks quietly and thoughtfully. He’s clearly collected a lot of racing information and history in a short amount of time. “The main appeal of racing is the danger element,” he says. “Everyone goes to NASCAR to see a crash, although most won’t admit it. There’s a dual quality of enjoying the race and enjoying the destruction. I was interested in where racing came from: WWII vets, adrenaline junkies—they got together and formed motorcycle gangs and hot-rod culture. This is also the beginning of car culture in the U.S.—the expansion of the highway system.

“Then there were the daredevils—Evel Knievel in the ’60s and ’70s. This guy,” he points at the wild, red-white-and-blue driver in his drawing, “is based on Knievel. The suit is primary colors. He’d walk around with a cane. On his helmet was his motto ‘Color Me Lucky,’ which I’ve made into ‘Color Me Do Do Rose’, which refers to a nickname I had in college.”

There are other pieces of personal history in the work. A New Yorker drawing by the French illustrator Yanni Kebbi that accompanied a story about driving in the city influenced the shape of the Faster mobile. “It kind of looks like a wet-noodle car.” The recklessness of the driver made Rosenblith consider what he may be avoiding, which inspired more from the artist’s biography. “Cones!” he says in mock horror. “I used to hit the cones when I was learning how to drive. But maybe this cone is protecting something, and I thought of the cutest little creature I could imagine, like Toto from The Wizard of Oz. The purple smoke is also related to The Wizard of Oz.”

And what about the man running from the out-of-control Knievel? “I thought of Action Comics No. 1, the first Superman cover that shows him lifting a car above his head, and in the foreground there was a guy running in terror. So I completely took that image. When I put it on my Instagram the comic freaks all got the reference.”