May 31st, 2002
A goal kicked from center field
By Gil Goldfine
A determining factor in the success of creative expression is an artist’s capacity for identifying a subject and translating its salient points into a meaningful individual message. This distillation and communication of a viewpoint is what Ori Gersht (b. Israel, 1967) has accomplished. Afterglow is an outstanding exhibition of four different series of color photographs.
Mass Culture occupies the main gallery and consists of half a dozen five-meter panoramic views of football stadiums in England and Germany, shot with a revolving camera from the center of the pitch. The pictures are spectacular.
Sweeping across Gersht’s elongated rectangular surfaces like wind across the prairie, are undulating roofs, empty stands and the emerald green playing surfaces that are punctuated by a flash of light or demarcation lines rolled out in lime. These stadiums are considered by social scientists to be the temples of the masses of the 21st century, just as the coliseum was for Rome.
In dire need of educational facilities after WWII, English municipalities constructed temporary classrooms that would serve their mounting educational requirements. Almost half a century later these “temps” are still being used as school buildings and specialty pedagogic centers. Knowledge Factories is Gersht’s second photographic record of the peeling and fading facades of these modernist architectural designs.
The concept of creating a transitory architecture conceived by bureaucrats is effectively deflated by Gersht’s photographs. The modular facades, defined by elegant thin mullions separating rectangular glass plates offset by panels of a flat primary color, possess a classical Mondrian-Mies van der Rohe modernism that is as healthy today as it was 50 years ago. The surrounding trees and foliage, add concepts of time and growth to the motionless solidity of the architecture.
Having moved from north London to a 14th floor apartment in the city’s south side in 1997, Gersht became conscious of London’s low skyline and began to photograph it from his bedroom window.
A sampling of the results is a quartet of large square prints Rear Window, Vauxhall, a sensitive not to color field painting from Mark Rothko to Jules Olitski. The prints embody little more than an opaque monochromatic surface in either deep indigo, burnt orange or reddish brown, moderated by cloudy tonal modulations. At the composition’s bottom edge a suggestion of the city’s skyline peeks upward. These photographs are basically descriptions of ambient light reflected from the city below.
Gersht’s most recent photos are of the Judean desert, shot earlier this year. Trying to document a geographic phenomenon that can be equated with historical connotations and personal allegiances has, unfortunately, produced some of his weakest prints. A barren landscape strewn with dark rocks and scarred by slight imprints of tire tracks disappearing into the horizon smacks of cultural myth making and just doesn’t work. Further, two video loops, including transitional night and day views of Nazareth based on long-term exposures, also fall short.
Gersht received a BA at the University of Westminster and an MA in Photography at The Royal College of Art. He was awarded the Leon Constantiner Photography Award by the Tel Aviv Museum in 2000. This exhibition, his first at an Israeli museum, will run concurrently with his one-man show at the Tate Britain. The exhibitions are accompanied by a fully documented attractive book that include reprints of photos from Sarajevo and Poland not included in the Tel Aviv exhibit. (Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv).