The Los Angeles Times

June 18th, 2004
Weathered But Living Ghosts

By Holly Myers

The photographs in Ori Gersht’s current exhibition at Angles Gallery, drawn from a recent series titled “Ghost,” are deeply reverent portraits of very old trees.

Gersht, who has lived in London for the past 16 years, returned to his home country of Israel — specifically to the ancient olive groves of Galilee — to make the works. The trees are more than 500 years old and look much as you’d expect them to after a lengthy tenure in violently disputed soil. They’re low to the ground, thick around the middle and painfully gnarled, with twisted branches and spare, dry foliage.

Centered individually in Gersht’s 4-by-5-foot prints, they’re beautifully ugly, each unique and saturated in the character of the place.

What’s remarkable, however, is Gersht’s particular manipulation of the light. Working at the height of the midday glare, he overexposed each image by several stops, then delicately resurrected the washed-out traces in the darkroom.

The result is a strange, ghostly quality, hence the show’s title, that makes the images look like negatives or X-rays in some places and like paintings in others.

Some have an almost holographic presence, as if fragments of the image were suspended in clear resin. The palette, meanwhile, is reduced to a dusty spectrum of pale grays, greens and lavenders, with touches of yellow, including a burning ochre sky in one of the most dramatic.

One senses, in this strenuous but poetic exercise, a desire to capture time as the trees themselves experience it — in protracted waves of sun, dust and wind rather than chronologies of elections, news reports and death tolls.