When Spanish painter Juan Sánchez Cotán worked at the turn of the 16th century, his hyperreal style and austere subject matter made him a revolutionary. Cotán probably would have been pleased by the work of contemporary photographer Ori Gersht, who also works in traditional still life--by literally blowing it up.
Tel Aviv-based Gersht, like Cotán, approaches conventional still life with a healthy dose of subversion. In Pomegranate, he painstakingly replicates a still life Cotán had painted almost exactly 400 years earlier. Then, shooting at point-blank range, he fires a single bullet through the hanging pomegranate, capturing the ensuing juice bath with specialized high-speed cameras. The full video, in which the pomegranate explodes for two minutes, was exhibited at the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
A year later, Gersht did a follow-up to Pomegranate, this time taking aim (literally) at an elaborate Rococo still life from the 18th century. Using liquid nitrogen, Gersht and his studio team flash-froze a series of elaborate floral arrangements. Then, using carefully choreographed movements, they smashed the frozen arrangements, producing catastrophic explosions of glass-like petals against a black backdrop. The resulting photographs are part of a fairly remarkable series called Blow Up.
Gersht--who is Israeli and works in London--suggests the works are meditations on our varying perceptions of violence and excess. He had this to say about Blow Up last year: "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."
[Images courtesy of Ori Gersht and CRG gallery]