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]