Art News

Ori Gersht’s Films & Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

artwork: Ori Gersht - "Chasing Good Fortune, Imperial Memories, Night Fly #1", 2010 - Archival Inkjet Print. Collection of Sandra & Jerry Le Winter. On view at the "Ori Gersht: Lost in Time" exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from May 20th until September 4th.

Santa Barbara, CA.- The Santa Barbara Museum of Art presents “Ori Gersht: Lost in Time”, the artists first solo exhibition in the Western U.S. from May 20th until September 4th. Ori Gersht depicts scenes of natural beauty that perceptively disguise and reveal a history of violence.  Bringing together for the first time the artist’s trilogy of films and related works based on 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century European still-life painting, and two new series based on Japanese history, “Ori Gersht: Lost in Time” represents five years of recent work. This exhibition of more than 28 works marks the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the Western United States, and is accompanied by his first museum catalogue produced in the United States.

“Pomegranate” (2006), “Big Bang II” (2007), “Falling Bird” (2008), and related photographic works featured in the exhibition fuse the past with what the artist has called the “ultimate present.” This is achieved through the creation of sublime scenes that become precipitously unsettling through both sudden and gradual obliteration.  Each work renders a prolonged moment of suspense through the use of stop-motion photography and slow-motion film.  Yet the visceral level on which these works operate most closely mimics that of their inspiration: painting.  Referencing historic paintings by Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560-1627), Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), among others, these photographs and films provide a meditation on life, loss, destiny, and chance. Named after the critically acclaimed 1967 film of the same title by director Michelangelo Antonioni, the “Blow Up” series visually references the paintings of Fantin-Latour. The flower arrangement central to this work is composed of royal blue, white, and red—the colors of the Tricolore, or the national flag of France, which is based on a design that was modified by the artist Jacques-Louis David in 1794.  Gersht rapidly accelerates the demise of this arrangement by literally blowing it up, which involves a special technique of freezing the flowers with nitrogen and, with the aid of a pyrotechnics expert, creating a violent explosion. The action is captured in vivid, enhanced detail by a special high-resolution camera at 1/6000 of a second, and the most pivotal moments are then selected for publication. The effect of this image is stunningly mesmerizing, yet deeply haunting as it evokes the random acts of violence that are not only a part of European history but also a part of the artist’s experience growing up in Israel. The body of work extends beyond the literal destruction and atrocities of war, but also comments on the dichotomy that exists between chaos and serenity.

artwork: Ori Gersht - "Pomegranate", 2006 (video still). The Jewish Museum, New York. On view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from May 20th until September 4th.

artwork: Ori Gersht - "Time after Time: Untitled 8", 2007 - Lambda Print Collection of Manny & Jennifer Simchowitz. - Courtesy Santa Barbara Museum of Art Gersht states during an interview with Joseph Caputo for Smithsonian in 2009, “My work is not so much a direct commentary as it is an open-ended observation of the absurdities around us…I’m thinking about scenarios where, in one place, there is a very bloody war, while in another place people are living a comfortable, decadent lifestyle. I’m intrigued by that kind of parallel existence, and how one sometimes weaves into the other.” Gersht also made three films that further illustrate these points.  “Pomegranate” (2006), based on a still life by 17th century Spanish painter Juan Sánchez Cotán, shows a bullet crossing the frame in slow motion and destroying a suspended pomegranate. “Big Bang” (2007) shows a flower arrangement exploding moments after a sirenlike wail has faded. “Falling Bird” (2008), based on a still life by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, depicts a hanging pheasant that is suddenly unleashed of its string and free falls toward a mirror-like black surface.  As it penetrates the liquid, it triggers an epic chain reaction, reminiscent of a geological disaster. The yin and yang of beauty and destruction carries through to Gersht’s latest series of work produced in Japan between April and May 2010, this time an exploration of symbolism. The cherry blossom has traditionally been the enduring metaphor for the nature of life, but its extreme beauty and quick death has also been associated with mortality.  During World War II the flower was used to motivate the Japanese people, to stoke nationalism and militarism among the population.  Gersht captures the essence of the disparity of this symbol in the series “Night Fly” and “Out of Time”. As noted by Michele Robecchi in her essay “Ori Gersht – Breaking the Silence” for the exhibition catalogue, “…[the works] have a slightly sinister post-atomic quality.  This effect wasn’t completely unintentional. When Gersht visited Hiroshima, his interest in the outdoor was equally split between investigating the lost innocence of cherry blossoms…and how nature flourish on nuclear-contaminated soil.”

Ori Gersht was born in Tel Aviv in 1967, and has lived and worked since 1988 in London, where he received his BA at the University of Westminster, and his MA at the Royal College of Art.  His work has been exhibited at institutions including the Tate, Britain; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Tel Aviv Museum; Frankfurter Kunstverein; the Jewish Museum, New York; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others.

The mission of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is to integrate art into the lives of people. The collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art comprises 27,000 works of art spanning more than 5,000 years of human creativity, including a collection of classical antiquities rivaled in the West only by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The museum has a a large collection of French Impressionist masterpieces, including the largest collection of Claude Monet paintings on the West Coast and the only intact mural in the United States by David Alfaro Siqueiros, “Portrait of Mexico Today”, 1932. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art opened to the public on June 5, 1941, in a building that was at one time the Santa Barbara Post Office (1914–1932). Chicago architect David Adler simplified the building’s façade and created the Museum’s galleries, most notably Ludington Court which offers a dramatic sense of arrival for museum visitors. The newly renovated Park Wing Entrance and Luria Activities Center opened in June 2006. Over its history the Museum has expanded with the addition of the Stanley R. McCormick Gallery in 1942 and the Sterling and Preston Morton Galleries in 1963. Significant expansions came when the Alice Keck Park Wing opened to the public in 1985 and the Jean and Austin H. Peck, Jr. Wing in 1998. The Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, a center for art education activities, was established in 1991. Today, the Museum’s 60,000 square feet include exhibition galleries, a Museum Store, Cafe, a 154-seat auditorium, a library containing 50,000 books and 55,000 slides, a children’s gallery dedicated to participatory interactive programming and an 11,500-square-foot off-site facility, the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House. More than 150,000 visitors every year explore the collection and exhibitions at the Santa Barnara Museum of Art. Visit the museum’s website at …