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Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times

The Israeli artist Ori Gersht's first museum survey opens Tuesday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Hilarie M. Sheets reviews the show in today's New York Times.

Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht, photographed by Erik Jacobs for The New York Times.

Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
By Hilarie M. Sheets

The sumptuous vase full of flowers against a dark background, composed by Ori Gersht, could momentarily be mistaken for an old master painting. He modeled his arrangement, displayed on a video monitor deceptively framed as a painting, after an 18th-century still life by Jan van Huysum. Keep watching, though, and smoke slowly starts to billow from the flowers as a siren sound builds to an operatic crescendo. An explosion then blows glass and petals and smoke across the picture plane in all directions. Jewel-like shards fall in a silent slow-motion cascade, protracted and meditative, before the piece, titled “Big Bang,” loops back to the beginning in an endless cycle.

It is one of 25 films, videos and photographs that draw simultaneously on the histories of art and politics in “Ori Gersht: History Repeating,” this Israeli artist’s first museum survey show, which opens Tuesday at the Museum of Fine Arts here. “Big Bang,” completed in 2006, was also part of “Times Square Moment: A Digital Gallery” in April, playing once a night that month on a dozen huge advertising screens, including several stacked vertically on a single building.

“When the explosion happened, you had the sense that that entire building was collapsing,” Mr. Gersht said in an interview at the museum, adding that he found associations with Sept. 11 unavoidable in this context. “But someone can look at it and be mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the event,” he said. “I’m interested those oppositions of attraction and repulsion, and how the moment of destruction in the exploding flowers becomes for me the moment of creation.”

For Mr. Gersht, born in Tel Aviv three months before the Six-Day War in 1967, the sound of sirens was formative in his youth. He remembers his mother waking him to run downstairs to shelter as the sound wailed nightly during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which his father fought. Mr. Gersht directly experienced two more wars, including the first Lebanon war in 1982 and the first intifada, which began in 1987 as he was finishing his stint as a medic during his mandatory military service. He moved to London in 1988 and lives there today with his wife, a painter, and their two children.

“Ori grew up amidst fear and violence in a land of stunning physical beauty and great history,” said Al Miner, who organized the exhibition for the museum, where he’s an assistant curator of contemporary art. “At the heart of Ori’s work is this intersection of beauty and violence. It’s an almost subversive approach to using aesthetics to lure a viewer into dealing with subject matter that’s very difficult...” >>>Continue to The New York Times website.
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times
Ori Gersht: History Repeating Reviewed in The New York Times

Ori Gersht: History Repeating

Ori Gersht: History Repeating

Clth, 9.75 x 11.75 in. / 256 pgs / 130 color.

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