Edward T. Pollack Fine Arts

Leonard, Rollin

Rollin Leonard was born in 1984. He grew up in Wisconsin, attended Art School in Cleveland, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Philosophy. After college, he lived in New York City, where he worked at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, and began to develop a presence within the community of artists whose expression is primarily through the internet. He moved to Portland in 2011, where he made his work in a small in-home studio, and then at a studio in the State Theater Building. His computer skills enabled him to earn a living doing animations on a free-lance basis. He has had solo exhibitions at Transfer Gallery in New York, and at Xpo Gallery in Paris. In the summer of 2016 Leonard was one of three artists selected for a solo show in the inaugural exhibition at the new building of The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, ME; the other two were the painter Alex Katz and the sculptor Jonathan Borofsky.

As an enthusiastic and knowledgeable user of social media, Rollin has gained national and international attention to his work. Somewhere in cyberspace some of Rollin's pieces were seen by Suzette McAvoy, the Director of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. She not only recognized the work as distinctive, but her vision was to include it as representative of the future of art in the inaugural exhibition held in CMCA's new building.

Rollin's show at CMCA is called "Vernal Pond." A vernal pond is a temporary or fugitive wetland, an ephemeral pool which appears in the Spring as the snows melt. For a few weeks it provides a habitat for a great variety of plant and biological life, from microscopic creatures to insects, evolved specifically for these ephemeral environments. Some organism lay dormant for years or for season waiting for the pools to return.

Rollin Leonard's works all begin with photographs of a human subject. Sometimes, as with the quilt "Cetus" or "Giant Derek" (not on display, but on the CMCA website) it is a very large image produced in extremely precise detail. The effect requires that hundreds of separate photographs be taken, with the camera focused on only a very small piece of the whole image. Using digital techniques to stitch or meld them together, these many separate pictures become a single image in which everything is in full focus, providing the extremely crisp detail that characterizes them. "Giant Derek" is printed on a flexible material which allows it to be arranged in a variety of ways. "Cetus" is printed on a special fabric, and backed with a fabric which references the constellation of stars to which the title refers. The quilt, which is 12 x 6 feet, was made in Maine by Patti's Machine Quilting of Portland.

Out of these highly detailed, but straightforward photographic images, the second strain of Leonard's work emerges. These are portraits in which the subject is photographed through a film of water droplets (the subject is prone with an array comprising a glass plate on which are the droplets, sometimes together with color gels, with the camera above. As with the pieces just described, multiple photos are taken to assure total focus. The finished piece is thus a face overlaid with water droplets in each of which the face, distorted by the water, appears, with the whole modulated by the use of the color gels. These are then printed onto aluminum panels by a process called dye sublimation. One of these pieces "Droplet Portrait, Alyssa" is hanging in the show, at the end of the corridor. Some of those not on display are on the CMCA website, and I have posted some here.

In the third major facet of the works which comprise Vernal Pond, Rollin photographs the subject through a shaped stencil which he makes. This is placed on a glass plate above the subject's face, and its opening filled with water. The resulting "blobs" are the faces distorted by the water ("Water Portrait, Ed," "Water Portrait, Derek," "Rainbow"); in more complex pieces ("Freeform Water Drawing," "Kiss Underwater,") each of the many blobs is a different "portrait" of the subject. The three Rat Queens are each portraits of four different women, one in each quadrant. These are based on the real or legendary phenomenon of the Rat King or Queen in which substances such as Ice, Blood and Horsehair combine to cause rats to become fatally entwined with one another, forming a single gigantic King or Queen.

Video pieces are created by using animation techniques to make the blobs move. There are also two wonderful floor pieces, one of which is displayed, in which a figural shape, within which there is a design or pattern, is fixed to the concrete surface of the floor by means of an invisible water-resistant substance. Water is then introduced into the areas not protected by the resist, which then allows the figure and the design to appear in the form of water drops. These evaporate and must be refilled regularly.

As the work moves from the realistic ("Giant Derek," "Cetus'), through the transitional (the Droplet Portraits to the abstract (the "blobs") its accessibility to the viewer becomes more difficult, but the realistic pieces provide an entrance to the transitional pieces, which in turn open a gateway to the "blob" pieces.

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