Zen photography by Rolfe Horn

The richness of “Shinjosui — Mind Like Water,” an exhibition featuring work by photographer Rolfe Horn on view at Scott Nichols gallery, goes beyond the subject matter of the photos.

The artist’s technical skill makes the works uniquely insightful.

The soft and gentle quality permeating all 26 landscapes comprising the exhibition is immediately striking. Sky and water — appearing in many of the photos — take up so much space, simultaneously dominating and softening the landscapes.

The prevailing presence of sky and water also endows the photos with a pleasing sense of spaciousness, reminiscent of medieval Chinese and Japanese paintings where empty distances surround mountainous landscapes.

The spaciousness also gives the exhibition a spiritual, kind of Zen-like feel. As you go from photo to photo, you can’t help sense the quiet and serenity that the works give off.

In “Morya Beach,” an expanse of sky and water envelops a coarse rock and a rocky cliff that protrude from the shore. The sky is shaded in black, white and gray, adding to the piece’s beauty. The water is also shaded, giving the photo a sense of flow. Although the image is black and white, its varied tones create a sensation of colors.

“Twilight” is another spiritually rich photo. Two thin, sparsely leafed trees are on a grassy hill in a corner; the sky dominates, while an unusually deep grayness gives the image a quiet power. Subtle tones and bright white clouds in another corner intensify an already stunning vastness.

“Snow Monkey,” a gem of a photo, offers an uncanny, humanlike view of animal, which is seated on a rock looking down with what appears to be a deep contemplation. It looks, literally, as if the monkey has been posed for a photo shoot and was completely familiar with the
operation.

It’s a stunning ending to a remarkable exhibition.

 

IF YOU GO

Shinjosui — Mind Like Water

Where: Scott Nichols Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes Jan. 2
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 788-4641; www.scottnicholsgallery.com

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