The fragility of objects, both organic and inorganic, is on display in two bodies of work by Ori Gersht at Yancey Richardson Gallery through October 20. In the first series, Fragile Land, 15 images of flowers, including Iris atropurpurea, Madonna lily, and cyclamen, are exhibited in the main gallery. They were once known as the “flowers of Israel,” and accordingly, they were picked nearly to extinction by Jewish people who felt a symbolic connection between the flowers and their land. For Fragile Land, Gersht sought out or grew the flowers he then shot – simultaneously with an air rifle and with three cameras: an 8×10-inch view camera, a Polaroid camera, and a digital camera. As a result, the flowers in the exhibition include a variety of different backgrounds, light sources, and crops; sometimes the moment of impact feels profound, other times almost an afterthought. Aesthetically, some works seem like portrait photographs, others like paintings. In still others, the viewpoint seems to hover over dreamy, surreal landscapes. All lend themselves to a multitude of metaphors, including the fragility of Israel.
The same is true of the seven images that make up Evertime. In this case, Gersht moves away from his homeland towards the European Union and its brittle nature, recreating the vases and objects found in Morandi’s still-life paintings. Whereas in Fragile Land, the flowers are presented in various states of being blown to pieces, sometimes with only a bit of smoke hovering above their petals, these ceramic objects, lined up against one another, seem to absorb the explosions deeper; the collision more profound, the damage seemingly irreparable.
There is a certain kind of destructive beauty present in Fragile Land. The stems of both the lilies and the Iris stand tall and proud; other times, the petals, pistils, and filaments flying about are gorgeous even when removed from their original state. But it’s the Cyclamen – which seem to float in mid-air, their root bulbs included in the shots, the roots surrounded, perhaps protected, by a mound of earth – that take on a dreamy quality. The backgrounds of these prints are much darker, with hues of blue from the Polaroid rollers often streaking through them. Floating as they do, they seem to be removed from history, aware of their place in the universe.