We’ve walked on the moon, our species. We’ve filmed luminescent sea creatures in the ocean deep, peered into active volcanoes, and studied Antarctica before it melted away. But the human mind continues to be one of the most uncharted frontiers of all. From his beginnings as a photographer, Frank Rodick has consistently explored this terrain, breaching the crenellations of the cerebral cortex to probe the limbic system, where our animal selves hunker. A medium recognized for its excellence in recording surfaces, photography is a challenging tool for plumbing the recesses of the brain. However, because it so easily creates a mirror world, a place parallel to our own, photography is also adroit at recontextualizing recognizable subjects to create new meanings. Rodick exploits this paradox and, as his career progresses, continues to use techniques that sever images from conventional interpretation, pushing viewers to engage with them in a less straightforward manner.
— Katherine Ware, curator and art historian, from Labyrinth of Desire: Work by Frank Rodick.
The issues that engage Frank Rodick are primal and timeless: the intricacies and conundrums of emotion and eros, pain, mortality, and memory. Critics have called his art—work that integrates traditional photography, alternative darkroom techniques, video, and digital imaging—complex and unsettling, and unique among his contemporaries.
Rodick's work has appeared in over 75 exhibitions across the world and in numerous publications. Museums with his work in their public collections include the Brooklyn Museum, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Art, The Kinsey Institute Gallery, Leheigh University Art Galleries, the Musée de la Photographie à Charleroi, the Museet for Fotokunst Denmark, the National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Rodick's first body of work, Liquid City, comprised 40 photographs completed between 1991 and 1999, In this series, Rodick re-imagined the contemporary city as a personal vision and state of mind. Liquid City opened Argentina's Festival of Light in 2002 as a feature exhibition, attracting over 100,000 visitors. For the next five years, it toured Argentina and neighbouring countries.
From 1995 to 1997 Rodick completed the series sub rosa, using a unique combination of Polaroid photography and silver printing to explore the traditional subject of the nude figure. In 2011, he reworked the sub rosa images into a new series entitled Masquerade.
In 2002, Rodick completed the first set of works from the project Arena, in which he used videotape as his starting point. Noted photo historian Katherine Ware, then curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, selected Arena for the 2006 FotoFest biennial in Houston. Ms. Ware later curated a large mid-career survey exhibition of Rodick's work called Labyrinth of Desire in 2010. Held at the Deborah Colton Gallery, it was accompanied by a monograph by the same name. Work from Arena can also be found in W.M. Hunt's book, The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious, published in 2011.
Following Arena, Rodick completed the body of work he named Faithless Grottoes (2006-2009). Here he expanded on the themes and spirit of Arena, creating large scale works incorporating digital technologies.
Faithless Grottoes was followed by Revisitations, where Rodick radically changed his scale and format. Each Revisitations piece became an objet d'art: a small, intimate image installed in a unique hand-made wooden case.
From 2000 on, like many of his peers, Frank Rodick coped directly with the complicated issues surrounding illness and mortality, including the aging and death of his parents. His more recent work, from 2011 on, reflects this process and struggle. These images include I Live There Now, the digital collage portraits of his mother, the self-portraits beginning with those called Everything Will Be Forgotten, and the 2016 portraits of his father that integrate his final words.
Everything Will Be Forgotten (self-portrait as child, no. 2.1)
© Frank Rodick, 2014
Difficult terrain, this — for viewer and artist alike. One's first response is to flinch, to turn away. I take one look and ask Do I really want these images lodged in my brain? Once you've crossed over into the mysteries of life and death, can you get a return ticket?
— Nancy Brokaw, from Sex, Death and Videotape, her essay on Frank Rodick's work.
Pain and pleasure, sex and procreation, dissolution and death all appear in the Arena photographs—not as opposites, but as a continuum, a dialectic in which each condition is inherent in the other. As in Mr Rodick’s other series, Liquid City and sub rosa, the Arena images obscure reality and force viewers to confront what they think they know and to reimagine the world and their own experience. While one can find art historical precedents of his Arena series in Bosch, Velazquez, and Goya, Mr Rodick’s spiritual forebears are equally Werner Heisenberg and Franz Kafka.
In its source material, the painstaking craftsmanship of its printing, its scale (large, yet still human and not overwhelming) and its presentation as single images, diptychs, triptychs, etc. Arena pushes through the boundaries of traditional photography into something new and spontaneous. It partakes of the multimedia approaches of much contemporary art while confronting the distanced intellectualism of some of that art with white-hot emotionalism.
— Stephen Perloff, editor and founder of The Photo Review, 2003.
©Frank Rodick 2012