Roger Newton

May 10 – June 23, 2001

Andrew Roth is pleased to announce the opening of “Hypnotize,” presenting five new color photographs and one black-and-white photograph by Roger Newton.

This is the second exhibition Andrew Roth has mounted of Roger Newton’s photographs; the first was in 1999. “Hypnotize” is a continuation of Newton’s experiments with color photography he began under the auspices of a 1998 Guggenheim Fellowship. Ranging from 30 by 40 inches to 50 by 60 inches, they are larger than his previous color images.

Newton works within a very coherent and standard photographic framework, producing images by focusing on a material object with the aid of an imaging device (lens), light-sensitive recording material (film), and printing on a light sensitive surface (paper). However, it is virtually impossible to reconcile the photographic subject with the visual experience he creates from it, and a futile endeavor at that: It is not the distortion of the real that Newton is fascinated by but the production of an objective document of subjective experience.

Newton constructs his own lenses from different refracting liquids: water, mineral oil, and glycerin. As Jonathan Crary states in “Visionary Operations,” the essay he wrote for the 1999 Andrew Roth exhibition catalogue: “Rather than proceeding as if the lens was a relatively neutral factor in the making of images it becomes the generative site of optical experience and a surrogate for the transformative capacities of a subjective observer, allowing a piercing defamiliarization of the world.” And he concludes: “[Newton] puts forth a counter-memory and counter-practice of photographic and optical systems. [He shows] how the most probing questions today concerning photography are not about the manipulation of technology but about the subjective conditions of knowledge and creation which a given apparatus can either constrain or facilitate.”

Along with the five new color images, Newton presents one black and white. Generated by photographing (with a mineral oil lens) a “test target” used for measuring the distortion in an imaging system, the photograph displays the effects of how this handmade lens renders an optically perfect symbol. It holds transformative powers, as in a state of hypnosis, where the participant is more open to suggestion, less inhibited, with uncensored access to the unconscious. This single black-and-white image offers the skeletal framework for the color pieces which explode with prismatic energy, capturing both the force of motion and the ephemeral essence of the spirit inherent in abstract form.