A Hollow Not A Void



September 12 - October 26, 2019

A Hollow Not A Void, is the premiere solo exhibition at RWFA by American landscape photographer Aaron Rothman, opening September 12 and running through October 26.  Previously included in several gallery group exhibitions, Rothman’s A Hollow Not A Void will include many photographs selected from his recently published monograph, Signal Noise (Radius Books, 2018) as well as new, previously unseen works. 

Rothman, who lives and works in Phoenix, AZ, presents his unique vantage point of the American West through poetic presentations of experimentally altered and digitally manipulated photographs of the desert: in long view; in abstracted close-ups of wildflowers while in bloom; of arid arrays of rocks in the high sun; and of the desert night sky harkening upon infinity. The images are more meditation then documentation, questioning the nature of perception. The artist presents a place that has captured his imagination since he first visited as a child from the Midwest, travelling with his family through the Sierras and the Arizona desert. The immensity of its scale and quality of light left on him an indelible impression. That experience continues to be transformative today as Rothman continues to capture a landscape of personal significance and immeasurable natural beauty, reflections of his relationship to the landscape.

The show’s title, A Hollow Not A Void, is quoted from 20th- century French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work The Visible and the Invisible (1964), referenced in Signal Noise. The nod to Merleau-Ponty’s ruminations on phenomenology underscores Rothman’s interest in more closely examining objects and events as a way to assess the essential nature of perception.

The photographs presented in A Hollow Not A Void represent a culmination of over 10 years of focused work. The series of ethereal, organic, landscape images embrace and examine the complex, fluctuating relationships between the seen and unseen, the natural and artificial worlds. By adjusting his digital and photographic editing techniques to align and reflect his internal perceptions of nature, Rothman simultaneously captures the real and unreal. By altering layers and color, focusing and enhancing the smallest of details he is constantly toying with the edge of recognition within an image. 

Although they were created over a decade, his different series dialogue through technique, idea, and in Signal Noise, by placement.  Rothman’s non-linear examination of the environment of the American West is reflected in the title. The cover, a detail of Milky Way 1, from Cosmos, is an image of camera noise, specks of color crowding and jostling the picture plane, while reflecting the idea of space and the larger universe. Highlighting noise in an image is a statement on how Rothman embraces the ambiguous, abstracted viewpoints and aesthetics finding in today’s technology a Pointillist treasure of severe image distortion.  The emphasis on transformation and effect is placed front and center.  What exactly was the origin of the natural object or specific scene when originally captured?

Rothman’s photographs present a perceptual quandary. Is it possible to still read an image as a photograph after so much of it has been altered, removed or manipulated? Can the image still be understood as taken from reality? The prints of Rothman’s landscape studies of the deserts and mountains of the American West challenge and explore the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds. His unconventional treatments and photographic processes both minimize the photographic information while maximizing the overall impact of the picture plane.

Aaron Rothman has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. In addition to his art practice, Rothman is a columnist for Places Journal. There he writes essays and curates art and photography features on landscape, architecture, and urbanism. His writings have also been published in Photo-Eye Magazine and The Caravan.