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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.



Liquid City, Unitled no. 123, Frank Rodick

Liquid City: Untitled, no. 123
© Frank Rodick, 1999


…what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does…. 

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

— Charles Bukowski, from a 1986 letter to his publisher and benefactor, John Martin.

Read the entire letter, and some comments, here.

This Great Misfortune

September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment


With her kind permission, I’ve reposted this piece written by Nancy Brokaw, senior lecturer in photography at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an independent arts writer. Brokaw served as a senior contributing editor on The Photo Review, has written for a variety of other arts publications, and currently blogs at nbrokaw.blogspot.comThis Great Misfortune first appeared September 3rd on her blog, where she writes regularly about visual art.

Back when I was young, I didn’t get Edgar Allan Poe. My first inkling of appreciation came with The Man of the Crowd, the story that Walter Benjamin called an X-ray of a detective story that gives us only the pursuer and pursued, with no crime in sight.

Reading the story, I began to see that virtually all of Poe’s short pieces are less fright fests than fever dreams, with no crime, no grand moral, no neat redemptive ending—just the endless pursuit after the guilty mystery of oneself. The urban setting notwithstanding Man of the Crowd is every bit as claustrophobic as Poe’s explicitly interior dramas like The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart. And all of these hallucinatory tales lead their protagonist into an underworld where Poe’s central character comes face to face with his own fouled soul.

I live there now, no. 1 Chromogenic print installed in custom-made wooden case ©Frank Rodick, 2012

I live there now, no. 1
Chromogenic print installed in custom-made wooden case
©Frank Rodick, 2012

Frank Rodick’s I live there now brought Poe to mind. Taken as he was closing down his parents’ home after his father’s death, the images in this triptych depict the inevitable decay of the soul. In the first image, the darkened room signifies loss: the end of the life of the mind. With each successive image, though, the scene collapses, and the abandoned desk, the mildewed walls, the decaying books and pictures combine to create the perfect image of rot. That these objects—the writer’s desk, the scholar’s library—have for centuries signified civilization underscore the tell-tale corruption at the heart of the human enterprise. In another setting the light that shines dimly on the desktop might promise illumination, might be read as the light shining in the darkness, but here it is swamped by a scene that seems entirely underwater. Continue Reading…

Liquid City: Untitled, no. 25 © Frank Rodick, 1992

Untitled, no. 25
From Liquid City
© Frank Rodick, 1992

Originally published on the AkinaBooks website, the following dialogue is based on a series of emails between Alex Bocchetto, co-founder and publisher of AkinaBooks, and me. AkinaBooks recently published Of Liquid Cities and Celestial Abattoirs a bookzine based on my work.

Preamble by Alex Bocchetto: The following conversation is taken from several email exchanges I had with Frank Rodick while working on his Of Liquid Cities and Celestial Abattoirs.

Sequencing his booklet was like solving a puzzle. We had to learn a whole new visual language. Of Liquid Cities and Celestial Abattoirs is based upon three bodies of work: Liquid CityArena and Faithless Grottoes.  It was especially important to keep in mind the big picture of the whole corpus and the direction of Frank’s work

Frank and I kept writing each other and in every email I found some new clues and good food for thought. We talked about taboos, death, love, redemption and its absence, the city as a state of mind, literature and everything else: I think part of our discussion is worth sharing with readers to better understand Frank’s work and personality. Continue Reading…


Three Studies for a Mouth (Explorations in statecraft, love, and the passing of woes)
From the series Revisitations
Chromogenic print
Image size: 10 x 22 cm / 4 x 8 3/4 inches
Installed in wooden case; edition of five
©2010, Frank Rodick


Teeth are for tearing, the tongue is for churning the swill around: that is the truth of the oral. Only by an ingenious economy, an accident of evolution, does the organ of ingestion sometimes get to be used for song.

— J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello

Samuel Beckett. Photograph by Mary Evans.

Maybe I lied. It’s not really a love letter. It’s a compliment.

It’s the best compliment ever paid to an artist.

Continue Reading…

With his irreverent book Half Empty, David Rakoff made me laugh. Out loud and lots. But he also explained, succinctly and in his unique way (here insert adult content warning), what being an artist is really about (the italics are mine):

… hanging out can be marvellous. But hanging out does not make one an artist. And secondhand wardrobe does not make one an artist. Neither do a hair-trigger temper, melancholic Continue Reading…