The concept & story are equally as important as the execution & presentation
I'm Matthew Lee Rosen... and I'm a baseball card artist. Some might even say I'm, the OG (Original Gumster). For years, my parents were begging me to take my childhood baseball cards out of their house. When I finally did, I fell in love with them all over again.
The smell of chewing gum and card stock triggers my fond memories of iconic 1980's card designs. Like anyone else who collected baseball cards as a kid, I was told they'd be worth lots of money when I got older, only to discover they were pretty worthless. So, what happened?
I learned that Topps lost a monopolization lawsuit which triggered new market competition in 1981 from Fleer and Donruss. Over the next decade, a few more brands entered the mix (Sportflics, Score and Upper Deck), and they all vied for shelf space. This created massive overproduction. It was a baseball card boom, and by the late 80's, some of the most popular cards had over a million in circulation. Today, they simply aren't rare to find. My personal favorite, the 1987 Donruss Greg Maddux Rated Rookie, can be purchased for a dollar on eBay. One dollar!
So, to celebrate their designs and help reduce circulation, I decided to turn them into pieces of artwork. In December of 2018, I began paying homage to the sport with my diamonds, which often tell visual stories about the baseball card boom and subsequent bubble burst. Soon after, I started creating my gum stick-inspired art... as an analogy for stained careers. It's since evolved into something broader.
Rosen's 1979 Topps Phillies Burger king collectible gum cards
During the COVID-19 quarantine, like many others, I was uncertain about the future. My corporate event jobs were all cancelled, and I needed to conserve my budget and resources. Creating these large pieces of art required significant material cost and space... so, I went small. And thus, I began making my collectible gum cards!
While my artworks come in different shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common. Each piece tells a story of baseball history and pop culture.
Gain some insight to my process with Blake Jamieson!
Common design elements & materials found in my work
Bubble Gum: Bazooka bubble gum was first marketed shortly after World War II in the U.S. by the Topps Company of Brooklyn, New York. When Topps began printing baseball cards, they inserted sticks of gum inside wax packages to cross-promote their products. Over the years, you could often find comics on the back of the cards... they were drawn by the same illustrators who created the Bazooka Joe comic strips.
The Fleer and Leaf companies also produced bubble gum before making cards. I use my gum texture primarily to link the history of the brands. I also tell stories of tainted or stained careers... as the gum stick often left residue stains on cards inside the wax pack.
Fun fact: When I create sticks of gum, I typically rotate the gum 9 degrees, as a nod to starting 9 in the lineup. The gum is always found in a random position inside the wax pack (never perfectly centered), so I prefer to have it displayed on angle to pay a proper tribute. That's sort of an "Easter egg."
Repetition: A particular focus of my story-telling is centered around the baseball card boom of the late 1980's and early 90's... and subsequent bubble burst. I design repeating patterns to convey the massive overproduction of cards printed during this era. You can find this in the graphic patterns I design, and also in the tiled cards I use as backgrounds for some of my wall art.
Diamonds & Wood: Much of my wall art is created on a plywood base, and in a diamond-shape. These are both nods to the game: the playing field and wooden bats.