The Work of Ori Gersht

Israeli photographer Ori Gersht transforms insignificant objects and places into dynamic metaphorical allegories of violence.  A professor of photography at the University of Creative Arts in Rochester, Gersht uses photography and video describe intense psychological spaces that embody the scars or evolving mental aftermath of large themes like life, death, violence and beauty.  Such subject matter requires a sophisticated simplicity that is ever present and elegantly hypnotic in his work.  He photographs and films sites of significant historical importance- Sarajevo, Auschwitz, the Judean Desert to name a few.  These locations seem familiar and unremarkable in themselves but his treatment of them adds a resonance that implies the impact of the events that have transpired there.  The absurdity of contrast in each of these locations is palpable when one sees such quiet beauty and thinks of the cruelty and devastation that has occured there previously but also the normality that exists not far from each site.  His still life series, contrary to the genre’s label, is spectacularly dynamic, literally explosive.  Sophisticated and cutting edge technology captures in slow motion the destruction of something beautiful.  Glass shattering, its shards and dust particles mingling with the soft tearing flesh of flowers and leaves, Gersht’s real fruit and flowers literally blow up and are caught in a mixture of still and moving images based on historical conventions and compositions.  In ‘Pomegranate’, a film that references Juan Sanchez Cotan’s beautiful hyperreal 17th century painting, Gersht captures the moment when a speeding bullet crosses the frame in slow motion, slicing and obliterating the fruit which has been suspended by a string.  The film shows the detailed annihilation of the object which feels surprisingly human and relatable in this incarnation as it’s blood red flesh and seeds spray over their surroundings and the delicate complexity of the pomegranate bursts apart and is destroyed irreparably.  The previously peaceful scenes of the still lives are shattered by destruction and we are forced to acknowledge the fact that it is this destruction, this animation which makes these images so compelling.  Gersht’s work is a meditation on life, death, violence and aftermath and is, perhaps, a result of a childhood spent in an environment where attacks were an everyday possibility and anticipation of them was essential to practice and to normalise in Israel.  His work is a startling reminder of the fragility of life and the reality that it is a human trait to be drawn to acts of violence and to sadly experience them.  Violence is grotesque and upsetting but beautiful and titilating, creating indelible pictures in our minds eye.  Gersht’s work demonstrates that creation and destruction live side by side and that high culture, which he refers to in the composition of his work, is often the result of extraordinary brutality and barbarism.

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