CRG Gallery is pleased to announce Ori Gersht’s sixth show with the gallery, Cells. The recent film and photographs are the result of the artist’s visit to the Andalusia region of Spain in 2012. As in prior work, Gersht considers private and collective histories. His work simultaneously inhabits 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. The Offering (2012) is a three-channel narrative which traces the matador’s meticulous spiritual and physical preparation, inhabits the bull’s holding pen, and finally bears witness to the encounter between man and animal. Interspersed with the bullfight staging are images of Italian, French and Spanish Old Master paintings. Titian and Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo’s royal portraits highlight the ornate and stately nature of the matador’s dress. Guido Reni’s arrow-pierced Saint Sebastian (1617-1619) and Edouard Manet’s Dead Toreador (1864) allude to religious and secular violence against man.
In the accompanying Cells images, the holding pens from The Offering are considered formally, the three-dimensionality of these spaces virtually erased, the surface qualities emphasized. What becomes most notable about these staging areas are the bull’s actions against it. One can imagine that in his anxious anticipation, he rams into the wood and mortar walls, scratching and cracking the surfaces, drawing blood from himself.
The Love Me Love Me Not 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. In three separate places, the Torah says that the devout may not “boil a kid in its mother’s milk,” which is the basis for the requirement that meat and dairy cannot be eaten together.
As with the bullfighting images, these works are simultaneously seductive and repellant, 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. Though the protagonists in the film remain anonymous, the film is indexical, memorializing, and reverential. It is simultaneously biographical and exemplary of a larger cultural heritage. In the same way, the Love Me Love Me Not works refer to a religious or maternal heritage, to a start or a beginning that hovers outside the image. Informed by these veiled histories, Gersht sees recollections of violence through a lense of quiet subtlety.
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 is currently the subject of solo exhibition at The Gund Gallery, Kenyon College, Ohio. 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 Center 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).