JTF (just the facts): A total of 10 large scale color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung against grey walls in the entry area and the main gallery space. All of the works are archival inkjet prints on Dibond, made in 2014. Physical sizes range from roughly 61×48 to 96×74, and all of the prints are available in editions of 6+2AP. The show also includes a three channel video, shown in a darkened room in the back. It is a 4K film (duration 5 min) on framed LCD screens in three parts, made in 2014. Each panel is sized roughly 51×35, and the video is available in an edition of 8+2AP. (installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: In the past several years, Ori Gersht’s photography has taken a dramatic turn toward probing and extending the edges of Harold Edgerton-style split second perception, showing us instantaneous views of things that usually fly by in an instant. His recent bodies of work have taken traditional tabletop still lifes and flash frozen floral bouquets and energetically exploded them, capturing still frames in the midst of the destructive action or shooting slow motion video of the fruits and vegetables being blasted into flying fragments. His newest show extends this line of exploratory thinking, but doubles the investigation of recorded reality with the introduction of a mirror.
Starting with a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 2013 where the artist encountered the exuberant 1606 floral paintings of Jan Brueghel the Elder, Gersht meticulously recreated the still lifes in his studio (using artificial flowers) and then placed them in front of a tempered glass mirror. He then aimed two separate cameras at the set up, one focused on the surface of the mirror, the other on the reflection of the bouquet. Alternately using a hammer or the distributed surge of an electrical charge, Gersht then shattered the mirrors, documenting the blast of reflective shards at the instant of destruction.
While this technical process itself is ingeniously complex, and on its own opens up some intriguing conceptual questions about reflectivity, illusion vs reality, destruction vs. creation, and the like, the visual results of Gersht’s experiments are really what matters here. One set of images (those focused on the surface of the mirror) become exercises in texture, with the fingers of the in-process shatter spider webbing across the surface of the glass like leather pebbling or the tributaries of a river. In these works, the overstuffed bouquet becomes a series of Impressionistic colored blurs (almost like lights), the edges of the mirror sparkling as the fragments tumble to the floor. In the other set of pictures, the reflected flowers stay crisp and sharp the entire time, and as the mirror shards twist and fall after the cracking, visual duplications, echoes, and repetitions are created, layering a multiplicity of Cubist-like refracted realities into one single frame. The video on view extends the moment of fragmentation into an elongated two-way process, where the reflected floral image explodes and falls down only to reassemble itself in reverse in a never-ending strobe-like cycle, decorated with the tinkling sound of breaking glass.
The fact that both sets of images are documenting the same objective truth is of course part of the clever twist Gersht is offering. Our perception is mediated in both cases, and it becomes impossible to reconcile the two “realities” given the incomplete evidence we’re provided – and if we’d watched the scene with our naked eyes, we’d have missed them both anyway given the speed of the action. In these works, Gersht has returned to an age old photographic question (what/how does the camera see?) and done so with age old subject matter, but applied an aggressively novel approach to open up new avenues for exploration. He’s taken the beauty of classical order and turned into into a maelstrom of churning chaos, pulling apart our assumptions about the medium along the way.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $18000, $25000, or $42000, based on small/medium/large size designations. The video is priced at $95000. Even smaller prints (sized roughly 16×13, but not in the show) are on view in the office area, and are priced at $10000 each. Gersht’s work has only been intermittently available in the secondary markets in recent years. Prices for the few lots that have sold at auction have ranged between $3000 and $20000.