Dialogues with Nature

New photographic works by John Roloff
8 May - 12 June, 1998 at Lance Fung Gallery, 537 Broadway
Reception for the artist: Friday, 8 May, 6 - 8 PM

Dialogues with Nature, an exhibition of new, large-scale photographic works by the American artist John Roloff, opens Friday, May 8th at Lance Fung Gallery. Sculptor and environmental artist, Roloff brings to this new work the same experimentation and provocation as his well-known landscape projects and installations. His geology inspired furnace projects in the landscape of the late 70’s through the early 90’s and experimental works with greenhouses and plant materials of the 80’s and 90’s form the background for this new work. As a conceptual extension of this earlier work, the large photographic works in Dialogues with Nature incorporate arboreal and geologic images, process and formal considerations in an interior setting referring to such diverse attitudes as the 19th century sublime, process art, earth works and baroque architecture.

The focus of the exhibition will be Orchard (Slump) II, a site-related installation of the image of an almond orchard made of photographic paper extending from the ceiling of the main gallery wall down and out across the floor. As an extension of the physicality and process part of his environmental projects, gallery viewers will be able to walk on the image and thus "enter" the transformed orchard. The form of Orchard (Slump) II is derived from the geologic process of strata slumping or sliding down slope from its own mass. Roloff has also developed in proposal form other geologic configurations for the orchard including the anticline and syncline. Other photographic works in the exhibition will similarly explore natural images in relationship with architecture of the gallery and perceptual issues.

As a psychological motif, the orchard for John Roloff is a reminder of his youth partially spent working in his family’s apple and cherry orchards, on a critical and philosophical level the orchard is a form of artificial nature, a monoculture organized for efficiency in the production of human energy: food, as an archetype of western philosophy, economics and science in the form of Cartesian coordinates or the grid and as a form of baroque architecture: a formal structure in tension with extreme organic influences. To subject this image to another natural force: the geologic processes of slipping and arcing or folding speaks of re-naturalizing the orchard, recognizing the primal and elusive nature in human constructs. The ability for the viewer of Orchard (Slump) II to walk across its lower surface compounds this re-naturalization by opening up the work to the vagaries of the viewer’s shoes, gait and decisions. This process references to earlier work of Roloff’s where some aspect of nature: fire, growth, subsidence, etc., is "unleashed," allowed an unrestricted voice in the work, a dialog with nature.

In the Arts Magazine article on his work, writer Jennifer R. Crohn wrote about Roloff’s furnace and related works, "Instead of dully resigning his imagination to the assumption that understanding of natural phenomena depletes the world of magic, Roloff stages demonstrations in which the inverse is shown to be true, leaving behind events and objects whose associative qualities span or leap magically suspended, between the need to know and the need to believe. " In the Artforum review of Vanishing Ship (Greenhouse for Lake Lahontan), critic Bill Berkson wrote about Roloff’s glass ship installation, "...Vanishing Ship had the force of a pristine reminder, a compact hymn to actuality as much as a clear-eyed lament for humankind’s stunted, or otherwise waylaid, physiographic imagination." These observations bring out a subtext in much of Roloff’s work where formal and material consideration is but one layer in a complex system of emotional, ecological and primal responses to nature.

Lance Fung Gallery is the New York dealer for John Roloff. He has work in the art collections of: The National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA, Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco, CA, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, University Art Museum, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, Newport Harbor Museum, Newport Beach, CA, Museum of American Crafts, New York, NY, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, Lannan Foundation, Palm Beach, FL, Cornell University, Ithica, NY, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, Viart Corporation and (Numerous additional private collections)