Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 3.41.52 PM

From my newsletter

Blog
As I’ve said in my most recent posts, I’ve moved my blog over to my website, which is where you’ll find all my postings, past and present. Because I prefer to keep things simple, I’ve also decided to close this WordPress site sometime in the first half of 2019. So, to the nearly two thousand of you that kindly decided to follow this blog, please tune in from now on by going to https://frankrodick.com/blog/.

Newsletter
Better still, sign up for my newsletter, a cupful of whispers. I put it out quarterly, so there’ll be no inbox deluge. You don’t have to give me more than an email address, and I’ll never give that to anyone. Most importantly, while I will let you know about some of the more interesting things I’ve got going on, a cupful of whispers is about a lot more than me: it’s a quarterly compendium and commentary on different issues I know will be of interest to members of the art community.

If you want a sample, click here to look at the latest issue. Among other things, I link you to a great piece by painter Helen Maudsley, show you where you can stream loads of films on photography for free, and, as usual, discuss and connect you with all kinds of stuff on creative process including thoughts from people as diverse as David Lynch and Alice Munro.

Medium
You’ll also see that I’ve ditched Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—a while ago, actually—and I haven’t missed them a bit. Quite the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve signed up with the writing site, Medium. It’s elegantly simple and, though I haven’t studied it closely, seems free of the screaming and other bad behaviours that characterize Facebook et al. And—good god—I even got paid a few dollars for writing this piece.

 

So, hopefully this isn’t goodbye, but rather au revoir. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Frank

 

 

Advertisements

Moving on

May 20, 2018 — Leave a comment

BR-edb0bf4

Hi there, and thanks again for reading this blog. A few things to report, in no particular order:

  • I’m moving my blog over to my website at frankrodick.com/blog. That’s where my recent posts are (including this one, on my latest work) and where I’ll post things in the future. So, if you want to read those posts, go there and, so you don’t miss anything, stay in touch with me by signing up for my quarterly newsletter. That newsletter won’t be only about me—I promise—and you can check out the most recent instalment here to see if it’s your cup of tea.
  • I’ll also be deleting my social media accounts shortly (yes, there’s a general housekeeping theme here), so once again, my newsletter is a good way to stay in touch. You can also contact me via my website and/or email.

I hope you’ll continue to read my stuff, and that you’ll stay in touch if you feel like it. I do want extend my thanks to you for reading and, especially, to those of you who I know read things carefully and thoughtfully shared with me your feelings and insights. I’ll be pleased if that can continue.

The days are always strange, but these seem a little stranger—a little more ominous than usual. I hope we do right by each other.

See you elsewhere, I hope….

Frank

frankrodick.com

 

 

 

Newsletter

August 17, 2017 — Leave a comment

First of all, thanks for reading my blog. I’m putting together a quarterly newsletter, which I promise will be succinct and informative, and not only about what’s happening with my work but other things of interest to anyone who’s into art. You can sign up for it by clicking here and filling in the very brief form.

Thanks,
Frank

PS, you can also click here to see a preview of my new website, set to open officially in September.

image below: The trio of diptychs, Frances (time, disposal, and Sex) from the 2015 exhibition in Kaliningrad.

rsz_frank_kalingrad

rodick_faithlessgrottoes_2007-love

Love, ©Frank Rodick, 2007

 

There’s a long standing  love affair between artists and the devil….

If Dr. Faustus is the first modern man, it’s because he is the first of a modern type: the artist. The bohemian archetype has long been understood as a devilish one. Where once the individual was but a conduit for God, with Faustus he began to serve a different master, either his own consciousness or, well, Satan. Or maybe those are really the same thing. Dr. Faustus during the witching hour, with his leatherbound tomes and his scrying mirrors, scribbling furiously on vellum and divinating with the sacred geometry, wasn’t a mad scientist: he was the artist. He was Marlowe himself.

A worthwhile read: Ed Simon examines four centuries of Christopher’s Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus in his article One Devil Too Many. Even if you never read the original, chances are you’ve come across the good doctor more times than you know.

Don’t revise too much or it turns into patchwork.

— W.G. Sebald, paraphrased by Richard Skinner from notes taken during a workshop with the great writer.

About five years ago I worked on this picture, as usual using Photoshop. I thought it was going well. So I kept working on it for quite a while—anybody who knows me also knows it takes me a long time to complete an image. In fact, I wound up spending months on it. I still have the image—as a psd file tucked away somewhere on a hard drive—but you’ll never see it and no one else will either. That’s because, at some indiscernible and undramatic point, I managed to fuck it up.

How did I go wrong? As the existentialists say, a big part of the problem was freedom. Or, put another way: choices, choices, choices. When it comes to photography, another name for limitless possibilities is Photoshop. You can do practically anything with the digital juggernaut.

And I came close to doing just that. I took the image (for clarity, let’s call it ScrewedUpPicture no. 1, though it’s hardly my first) which had some promise, and I poked it, tweaked it, cajoled it, added to it, cleaned up this thing and that, removed something I thought defective, made it a little more complex here and there and elsewhere too—all to the point that somewhere, somehow, it reached an invisible tipping point where the image no longer worked. Through my well-intentioned efforts (the road to hell being paved with these), ScrewedUpPicture no. 1 had become a hodge podge of stuff, the sum of which was mysteriously yet mightily less than they were individually. ScrewedUpPicture no. 1 had lost something fundamental, including the indefinable energy that attracted me to it in the early stages. Whatever promise the image had for saying something that interested me deeply—that was gone too. I didn’t care about the picture anymore. So I ditched it, which was the probably the first good decision I’d made in at least a month.

On one level I could blame Photoshop. All those tools. A candy shop with Baby Ruths, Pop Rocks, Toblerones, Jawbreakers, Twizzlers, and Tootsie Rolls, and that’s just the first shelf: what kid wouldn’t eat himself comatose with those temptations?  So many ways to improve the image. So many ways to add layers, literally and metaphorically, to a picture. In the stone age of darkrooms, I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, have tried to do what I did; the limited and infuriating (and wonderful) magic of chemicals, paper, tray tilting, water variance, humidity, and the bazillion other variables that perpetually reconfigured themselves in combinations and permutations, (sometimes leaving me in a fetal tuck of despair, other times astonishing me with their beauty) wouldn’t have allowed it. That’s no guarantee that ScrewedUpPicture no. 1 would’ve become SublimePicture no. 1 but the path would have been different, that’s for sure.

(I am not lauding the good old days of the darkroom. Traditional photography had its pluses as well as its many minuses and drawbacks. Photoshop photography can do the hitherto undreamed, but ultimately it’s a different medium despite sharing some superficially descriptive language.)

Of course, the real problem was me. I forgot to respect the power of ones’s tools—reminder # 1 being: nobody’s making you use them all. I didn’t use the power of time and distance—looking back, I was excited and in such a rush to make a great picture that I didn’t pull myself back from the hunt, meaning: put the thing away, wait a while and look again with fresh, less invested, eyes. Instead of paying attention to the process, I let my ego get invested in the result. And, dutifully following the work ethic I was brought up with, I thought working more and more on ScrewedUpPicture no. 1 would make it better and better, when what I was really doing was burying it a few spoonfuls of dirt at a time. To really mix my metaphors, I did what my friend Dimitri calls “overcook the image.” (To this day, when I show Dimitri works-in-progress, he’ll sometimes end his feedback, which I cherish, by saying “And don’t overcook it, Frank.” Bless his heart—may you have such good friends with keen eyes.)

So, here are a few takeaways from the saga of ScrewedUpPicture no. 1. Some might seem pretty basic and they certainly overlap but they’re here as reminders for me that I happily share with you.

  • Don’t think that adding/subtracting/changing is necessarily an improvement.
  • Beware the perils of perfectionism. Not only is that often the road to ruin but some so-called “imperfections” are decidedly beautiful if we take the time and effort to look at them.
  • Make every decision an aesthetic decision. That means you don’t do something simply because you can. Watch that you don’t shift into automaton mode, which can be easier with Photoshop because it’s a whole lot quicker and more repeatable than what we did in the darkroom age. (Conversely, making every decision an aesthetic decision also means  you don’t avoid doing because you haven’t adequately mastered your medium—in that case, you need to do what we all must, which is go back and work on craft.)
  • Pain and effort, including near-death experiences, in creating your work do not count in its final value. This is not grade school where a kindly teacher may goose your grade for Herculean effort. You can grind and slave and spit blood on the carpet and your work can still turn out like shite, though your Trickster Ego will try convincing you that such a cosmic injustice cannot be. And beware the Trickster Ego— he (it feels right to make him masculine) is no match in the long run for the Universe’s indifference to our pain.
  • Keep many versions of your images-in-progress. Photoshop is perfect for this and hard drive space is cheap. Version #3 may turn out to be a whole lot better than Version #34 and you’ll be glad you can go back easily and work from there.
  • Label (intelligibly) your versions as well as your layers so you’ll have some idea what the heck it was that you were doing in case you want to do it again sometime. Make notes directly in the file if it helps.
  • Limits, including those self-imposed, can be great things. If you’re stuck, think about that.
  • Let your work sit. Put it away for a while and come back to it. It’s amazing how a picture that looked like it might place you in the company of Michelangelo looks kind of, well, bleh after a few days or weeks. Conversely, it’s a good sign when an image retains or gains power in your eyes after a cooling off period.
  • Find yourself a cadre of people you trust and who have good eyes—people whose opinion you value and who are honest enough to tell you that, no, your sweat does not smell like honey. Show them your works-in-progress and don’t just ask for feedback, listen to it. If they tell you that, no, this image doesn’t work, ask them why, listening quietly, taking notes perhaps, and resisting the all-too-human temptation to insult their shoes or tell them their new baby is ugly.
  • And remember—don’t overcook it, Frank.

Stop Making Art

May 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

hockney-pearblossom-highway

In the recently published Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life, 36 artists offer their insights and advice on becoming and being an artist. It’s a terrific book and I recommend it to any artist regardless of what stage they’re at in their career. From my first reading, one artist—Stephanie Syjuco—stood out with what she had to say. So, I thought to share with you some of her most memorable words. The following quotation is from her open letter that begins “Dear Art Student / Recent Grad / Young Artist / Prospective Artist / Colleague.” This entreaty is Syjuco’s very first point:

1. STOP MAKING ‘ART’ AND START MAKING YOUR WORK.
This is at the top of the list for a reason—namely, because it’s so easy to make things that look like art, act like art, get sold like art, yet in the end aren’t really art, but are phantoms, mere commodities or quantifiable, digestible sound bites. And unfortunately, you’ll be encouraged to do this. In general, these are the things that art schools and the art world push you to make because they’re legible and can be spoken of in ways that make sense to everyone: collectors and curators alike. This ‘art’ has the correct visual markers and can slip easily into exhibitions and catalogue entries. At first, it seems really exciting to play this game, and it could get you a lot of mileage if you play it right, but in the end, these are really boring things that don’t have a lot of depth to them. Try to resist this approach, because it’s unsatisfying in the long run. Be prepared to be unpopular, unclassifiable and perhaps even out-of-date in terms of what others (and this includes the market) desire of your art. You’re in this for the long haul and in the end it’s you who has to live with what you produce as your work.

In a footnote, Syjuco adds:

Interestingly, you’ll get double points if you ‘represent’ a certain gender/ethnic group/nationality/class background. I’m not saying that these aren’t valid and urgent topics to tackle in your work. I’m just warning you to be wary about how you’re being asked to ‘perform’ this subjectivity within the art world, because it’s not as much about you as you think, but about you as an idea that serves an accepted function of discourse. And I’m not sure that’s what you really had in mind when you set out to make the work.

I think the whole thing is insightful but this line is so good it bears repeating: Be wary about how you’re being asked to ‘perform’ this subjectivity within the art world, because it’s not as much about you as you think, but about you as an idea that serves an accepted function of discourse.

Artists, too often and too easily, fall into believing the (flattering) self-image of  being against-the-grain free thinkers. The reality is that the art world—like any social system—has a definite grain, a seductive one at that. It’s littered with narrow-mindedness and bias. And like any system, these thought processes, and the institutions that support them, reinforce the status quo in that world with all kinds of reward structures.

Exhausting it may be, but it’s our job to question everything—ourselves and our institutions, some of which may be near and dear to our hearts and personal histories. They may even be giving us a pat on the back, or even a buck or two, from time to time.

So, as Stephanie Syjuco says, be careful. Be wary. Stop making ‘art’—phantoms, commodities, sound bites—and start making your work.


Quotations from Stephanie Syjuco, from the book Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life, published by Phaedon.

Image: pearlblossom Highway #2, David Hockney

 

 . . . I have in my time investigated the voluminous myth-kitty which our spavined species has assembled down the millennia for its comfort and edification, and I have a word of advice for those who cannot reach the end of the day’s winding path without a token of myth. My counsel is this thus: dream on. The pig did not fly; the stone rebounded from the helmet of Goliath, who promptly ate David for breakfast; the fox easily acquired the grapes by cutting down the vine with a power saw; and Jesus resideth not with his Father.

— Julian Barnes, Love, Etc.