Ori Gersht, Director’s Cut: Recent Photography Gifts to the NCMA, Group Exhibition, The North Carolina Museum of Art, USA. Closing: September 13th, 2015
Ori Gersht, White Noise Series, White Scape #1, 180x150cm, 1999-2000
Ori Gersht, White Noise Series, White Scape #1, 180x150cm, 1999-2000
In All Will Come to Pass exhibition, Ori Gersht will premier in Israel a new body of work consisting of three collections of photographs titled: Offering, Love Me Love Me Not and Cells, as well as a HD film titled Liquid Assets.
In addition to the exhibition at Noga Gallery, Ori Gersht will hold a comprehensive solo exhibition at the CCA Tel Aviv. This exhibition will include three large scale film installations: Offering, Will you Dance For Me and First to Laugh.
The photographic series titled Offering was created during the artist’s visit to the Andalusia region of Spain in 2012. The photographs capture a matador’s meticulous spiritual and physical preparation, portray the bull’s holding pen, and finally bear witness to the encounter between man and animal. As in previous works, Gersht considers private and collective histories. The photographs simultaneously inhabit spaces of volatility and harmonious elegance.
Spain established their modern bullfighting tradition in the early eighteenth century. A highly ritualized event, an impeccably adorned matador baits a bull with a cape, drawing the animal in and out and around the bullfighting ring. The event most often culminates in the bull being slain.
Bullfighting images are simultaneously seductive and repellent, vital and deadly. As primal as bullfights are, a sense of beauty is captured in its ritual, tradition, and in the continuation of its practice throughout Spain in the same way. However due to recent legislation, bullfighting is on the verge of disappearing and Gersht’s photographs therefore become a form of epitaph, a testimony to the temporal nature of tradition and cultural identity.
In this body of work Gersht continues his dialogue with the history of painting. Without taking a moral stand, the images converse with a long artistic tradition of religious iconography. Through contemporary and historical juxtapositions the photographs present a timeless space, a space that cannot be anchored, a space that hangs forever between past and present, between art history and contemporary practice.
Unlike the bullfighting images, the series Cells, 2012 depict the holding pens in which bulls are held before they are released into the ring.
The pens are considered formally and the three-dimensional aspects of these spaces are virtually erased, as the surface qualities are graphically emphasized. What becomes apparent about these holding areas are the bull’s reaction to them, as one can imagine the anxious animals ramming into the wood and mortar walls, scratching and cracking the surfaces and drawing blood as they seek to release themselves from the confined enclosure.
In relation to the photographs of Bullfighting, Gersht will present in the gallery new prints from the series Love Me Love Me Not, 2013. These photographs actively resist identification. They are highly abstract, appearing alternatively as miniature flowers or as mandalas, metaphysical or symbolic representations of the cosmos. Using a high definition camera, Gersht captures a drop of blood as it disperses through milk. Initially the blood appears as a black puncture hole, growing symmetrically and gradually outwards. It becomes a deep red as it pushes away from its inception, transforming into a pale pink before the two fluids coalesce into a single entity. The purity of the milk is at odds with the blood, an aggressive contaminant. The Love Me Love Me Not works refer to a religious or maternal heritage, to a start or a beginning that hovers beyond the image. Informed by these veiled histories, Gersht sees recollections of violence through a lens of quiet subtlety.
In the upper gallery, Gersht will present the HD Film Liquid Assets 2012, that was commissioned by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston for the exhibition History Repeating, a mid career survey exhibition that presented Gersht’s work at the museum earlier this year. In the film, what appears to be an ancient Greek coin from the museum collection gradually melts, slowly transmuting the portrait of Euthydemos II, king of Bactria. As if aging, he begins to crumble and disappear. This struggle between nature and culture, between the human hand that created the object and the natural mineral of which it is made, is fierce and continuous. Like the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin, the face refuses to fade away. As the metal turns to liquid, ripples and waves form rhythmic patterns. Gersht associates this physical transition with the medieval efforts to alchemically transform base metals into noble ones, such as silver and gold. However, since coins have always been the most universal embodiment of currency, and have hardly changed for over two and a half thousand years, he also identifies this ancient coin with the beginning of our economic system, when cash was exchanged for commodities. Today we are at the end of this era, as coins become more obsolete and transactions almost entirely abstract.
Ori Gersht was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel in 1967. He received his BA from the University of Westminster, London (UK) and his MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London (UK). He lives and works in London.
He has previously been the subject of solo exhibitions the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Imperial War Museum, London (UK), The Tate Britain, London (UK), The Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (Israel), The Santa Barbara Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, The Jewish Museum, New York, The Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut, and the Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton (UK).
Gersht is included in the public collections of the British Council, London (UK), Deutsche Bank, Government Art Collection, London (UK), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, the Imperial War Museum, London (UK), The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Israel), The Jewish Museum, New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, the Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Tate Britain, London (UK), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (Israel), the 21C Museum, Louisville, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (UK).
Ori Gersht, Untitled 1, Cracow Auschwitz, C-Print, 80x100cm,1999-2000
Ori Gersht, Blow Up, Untitled #01, 240x180cm, 2007
Floating Petals – Japan 2010
For many centuries cherry blossoms were, and still are, highly significant in Japanese culture. The rich and complex meanings of these blossoms constitute a matrix of interrelated concepts, associated with renewal, the celebration of life and good fortune, but also predicated by the ephemeral nature of life, death and rebirth.
In other words, the symbol stands for process and relationships, not an isolated concept. In the 19th century, with the beginning of the Meiji era, when Japan begun its modernisation, militarization and colonial expansion, the symbolic meaning of the cherry blossoms was re-appropriated for nationalistic and military purposes. It is precisely because cherry blossoms stand for life, predicated by death and rebirth, that the Japanese military were able to tip the scales and exploit their symbolism in terms of death instead of life. For the imperial state, the virtue of cherry blossoms was not the life force represented by the petals as a full flower, but was instead the premature fall of the virginal petals as symbols of the sacrifice made by the young soldiers, since to die without clinging to life was a concept later introduced by the state to convince Kamikaze soldiers to plunge into death.
The symbolism of the cherry blossoms was transformed from full blooms as a life force to individual falling petals as a representation of the sacrifice of soldiers and their subsequent rebirth. The work that I produced in Japan between April and May 2010 meditates on the life and death dialectics that are symbolically imbedded in the life cycle of the cherry blossom. In the course of my journey I was moving between the cities of Tokyo and Hiroshima, both of which were damaged during World War II, and ancient locations and temples in the remote regions of west Japan. This geographical dichotomy allowed me to develop a visual dialectic between the historic and modern symbolism of the cherry blossom. The trees that I photographed in Hiroshima and Tokyo were all planted after the war.
In post A Bomb Hiroshima they are all fed from the nuclear contaminated soil, while in Tokyo they are often associated with death and nationalism, located in Kamikaze memorial shrines and around the imperial palace. In contrast, the trees that were photographed in the remote regions are ancient and were not affected by the war. These trees are often located in the vicinity of Buddhist temples and are associated with the force of life.