Opening on March 23 at David Zwirner is an exhibition of works by New York-based artist Roger Newton. This will be the artist's first one-person show here in the gallery.
Roger Newton's rejection of standard photographic imaging systems, speaks of a desire to reorganize the primary and unconscious act of looking. His photographs challenge our assumptions about photography as a medium of representation and the nature of representation itself. In these works, we are placed in the position of trying to make sense of what we see: to describe the world around us and locate ourselves in it. Therefore, a tension exists between the abstractness of the work and the nascent figuration of the composition, and at the same time the expectation that a photograph must record objective reality with some sort of fidelity.
The works themselves are photographs printed on plywood panels in a home-made adaptation of the gelatin silver process. Newton makes his own liquid lenses and film stock, in addition to building his own camera. The lenses are typically filled with corn syrup, glycerin, oil, or water, all of which have different properties as optical materials. Newton takes a plywood panel and builds up layers of rabbit skin glue, a rabbit skin calcium carbonate-based gesso, and finally the photographic emulsion itself, resulting in a support which partakes of the physical and optical properties of panels prepared for tempera painting in the method of the 15th-Century Italian artist Cennini.
Ultimately, Newton's method reinvents photography from the ground up. His criteria for the properties and specifications of a lens or sensitive emulsion are not the standard practices generally employed by the photographic industries. Newton thinks of lenses as organizing principles which we use to give structure to and understand our experiences of the world. The images of the world and things in it, are transformed from objective documents of the real, into evocative things in themselves.