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Roe Ethridge 
Rockaway Redux 
September 4 – October 4, 2008 

Dear Harry,

Since we were having so much trouble with the press release, which is always the case, I thought it might be helpful to write you a letter. I remember Michael Bevilacqua did this and the gallery used the letter as the press release. It thought it was great and really touching. Not sure that type of thing is the way to go here but maybe we can use it for the pub.

A couple years ago, after finishing the Gagosian show, I felt like needed to change something up, learn to use a digital camera. For that show I’d used 8 pictures culled from the flat file that for one reason or another were never published or exhibited, there were many more but these were the best 8. This little inventory selection became a kind of armature for the rest of the work. For me it seemed to be about old things. Old pictures, old things. Pictures of old things. It wasn’t like “the end is near” but it wasn’t far off. At that point, I’d already started taking pictures in Rockaway but since it was something so personal I was a bit hesitant. It’s like I didn’t want to exploit it for it’s vernacular charm. But after I saw those images of projected sea levels with a big chunk of long island and NYC under water I started thinking of Rockaway as a place that would disappear. For me it is becoming relic.

For the new work I wanted to be more thematically concise but I didn’t want to just dig in, deliver a solid documentation of Rockaway. Given that the name of the place has the word “away” in it, it made sense to broaden the scope, this was the “next thing indicated” as David Milch says. And since I was thinking of it as a book project first I knew I could use a lot more pictures than I would in an exhibition. It gave me an alibi for getting a little out of control and seeing where things would go. As you know, there are pictures from Mumbai, St Barts, Cornwall, Atlanta, New Mexico, LA, Florida, B.C., Montauk, Williamsburg as well as Rockaway. As it turned out I used quite few older images too including a handful of 4 x 5 Polaroid’s that I turned up after looking through PL’s Polaroid book.

For Rockaway Redux I wanted to continue the themes and motifs from the book but with the exhibition in mind rather than the publication. The sunsets were shot on the last day of what was a bizarre, difficult trip to a Caribbean paradise. I think it was a relief that we were leaving the next day and that sunset was a nice send off. I liked that they were serial but also depicting a very short period of time. The re-photographed images on the plastic lattice are from the grocery store in my neighborhood, Tops on the Waterfront (which it is not). I liked the word play of the “Tide” bottles and the “Ready Crust” tangented nicely with the two refracted suns in the “Sunburst with Refracted Suns”. The teddy bear netting is from this little hammock thing we used to put Lee in her bath. It had a sort of ramp shape and would keep her head out of the water. The picture of Nancy is from last summer in Wellfleet when she was pregnant. The self-portrait is a b + w Polaroid, slightly distressed. It was originally for the Journal as an opener for the interview portion of the piece. The pictures of Jake were shot for Vice. It was a wintertime surf story boringly titled “Dawn Patrol”. It was going to be called “Neoprene Dreams” but that seemed too Teen Beat at the time. The Cappy portraits were also for Vice, his publicity shots in the captain’s outfit sealed the deal for me. The still life images were shot at the new studio. The net piece is a re-photograph of the “Cliff in Montauk” with a decorative fish net over it. Not sure if that means it’s caught or if the net is just blocking the view. The “Beach Scene” is a bunch of elements collected over the last couple years, the dress I bought a couple days before, it reminded me of Outerbridge.

One of the reasons I’ve been so interested in this kind of displaced, broad scope approach is an effort to embrace the arbitrariness of the image and image making. For me serendipity and intention are both necessary. Another reason for the wild style is the dread of conclusiveness. The dread of finitude. This work is against death and finality. No, that’s too hyperbolic, let’s say it’s about working in the service of the image and getting my kicks too.

I hope this helps explain how I got to this point.