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Steve Roden, Pasadena Artist Who Blended Sound and Vision, Dies at 59

Published on Monday, September 11, 2023 | 6:14 am

Steve Roden [Via Instagram]
Steve Roden, an artist who explored the connections between sound and visual art in various media, died on Wednesday at his home in Pasadena. He was 59.

His family announced his death on his Instagram account, saying he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.

Roden was known for his abstract paintings, sculptures, installations, videos and sound works that often translated musical scores, texts or other sources into visual forms. He called his method “lowercase,” referring to his preference for subtle, quiet and minimal expressions.

He also performed live improvisations using found objects, instruments and electronics, creating atmospheric soundscapes that he described as “sound shapes.” He collaborated with other musicians and artists, such as Steve Peters, Brandon LaBelle and Glenn Bach.

Roden was a prolific and influential figure in the field of sound art, with his works exhibited and performed internationally. His last solo show at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles, his longtime gallery, was in 2019. He also participated in group shows in California and Europe, including a major survey of contemporary sound art at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid in 2020.

The Los Angeles Times reported Roden’s work is scheduled to be featured in “Energy Fields: Vibrations of the Pacific” at Chapman University next year, as part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time initiative exploring the intersections of art and science.

Roden was the subject of a midcareer retrospective at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena in 2010, and his work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece.

Roden was born in Los Angeles on April 27, 1964 in Los Angeles. While still a student at Beverly Hills High School he started his first band, the Seditionaries (1979-1982), who would go on to perform with such noted bands as the Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., and The Damned. 

Roden graduated from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 1986 and went on to earn a MFA from Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design in 1989. Establishing a studio in Pasadena called InBetween Noise, he would remain based in LA for the course of his career. 

His obituary on reported Steve Roden centered his life “upon the making of connections and meaning” by experimenting with visual imagery, music, language, code, translation, listening, and the amassing of various collections of objects and ephemera. 

On KCET’s Artbound in 2012, Roden said: “It’s a very personal way of moving through the world to connect things that really weren’t meant to be connected.”

He thoughtfully translated his intimate observations of the ‘unnoticed’ things in his environment or another artist, writer, philosopher, architect, or musician’s work and made something new – always bringing the past forward, personalizing his conversation with the material, and churning it into a poetic and relevant aesthetic experience for the present,” Meg Linton, a former curator of the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis and an artworker, writer, and producer, wrote.

The artist is survived by his wife, artist and designer Sari Takahashi Roden, his mother Susan, and a large circle of friends and family. A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date, his family said.

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