Despite the name of the exhibit now up at Denny Gallery, Rock Shop III is less shop and more laboratory: large images of rocks surround receptacles in which salt chemically reacts to pigment, resin, or steel with the aid of sunlight pouring through the gallery windows. In one tank, the salt resembles gold dunes.
“I have a scientific, archival interest in my work,” says German artist Nadja Frank, whose brother is a geologist. She acquired all the rocks in this collection from traveling across the United States by car and accruing fifty to sixty boxes of stones that best captured the essence of the places she visited. The rock prints have titles like “Rock #9 (Orderville, Utah)” or “Rock #2 (Granite Quarry, New York).”
“In Europe, we don’t really have vast country. We don’t know what it’s like to drive and drive and see nothing and no one,” Frank said. “You feel, in a good way, small.”
That’s not unlike how you feel when you look at the magnified elemental components of the rocks. Frank eschews photography for silkscreens. One effect is that when you look at the portraits from afar, they seem like photorealistic black and white images — but upon closer inspection, you notice most of them have a slight tinge. “Rock #2” is the shade of a sugar-dusted orange gum drop. “Most of these prints include a slight mixture of metal ink,” says Frank. The process of making metallic ink mimics those of pre-industrial artists, when painters had to grind stones to get pigment.
“There’s more texture with printing than photography,” Frank adds. “I can decide whether I want to make the image look more grainy or exaggerate certain properties.”
On the other hand, Frank’s sculptures are more out of her control, and it’s reflected in their titles: “The Earth Moves 15cm Away from the Sun Each Year…” and “Hot Flamingos.” Frank artfully sets up the salt, resin, thread, steel — in “There Are More Stars in the Universe…” a stone hanging from the ceiling hovers over the salt formation, monitoring its crystallization.
Rock Shop III is on display until December 7th. Don’t expect the window display to still be white and gold by the time you get there.