WASHINGTON, DC.- Ori Gersht (b. 1967, Tel Aviv) currently lives and works in London. He is noted for his series of large-scale photographs and arresting moving-image pieces. The artists work encourages viewers to reflect on the power of natural beauty and how it is affected by human intervention. In The Forest (2006) the camera pans a lush, primeval forest. Sound alternates with silence and suddenly a tree falls to the ground with a thunderous echo. The departure point for this work seems to be the conundrum if a tree falls in a forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? But other questions emerge: Who or what is causing these trees to fall? Is this a statement about nature and inevitability, about proverbially missing the forest for the trees, a commentary about deforestation or a metaphor for loss? Or is it perhaps an exercise in anticipation? The Forest is soothing but also becomes increasingly mysterious. Shot deep in the Moskolovaka woods that span Poland and the Ukraine, this site has personal meaning for the artist. It was from the edge of this glen that his in-laws witnessed the execution of their fellow villagers before escaping into the forest, where they hid from the Nazis for two years.
The exhibition also includes two flat-screen works: Pomegranate (2006), installed next to the entrance to the Black Box on the lower level, and Big Bang II (2006), a recent acquisition. These works reference traditional Spanish and Dutch still-life painting in which precise arrangements of foods, fruit or flowers are shown at their peak, implying the inevitability of decay. These metaphors for the brevity of life are termed vanitas. Gersht fast-forwards the impending threat of demise. His imagery does not decay by dissolving over time; it combusts and then, in the type of slow motion used to depict extreme violence in feature films, recalls the time-lapse imagery of Harold Edgertons scientific action photography. Gersht updates the concept of vanitas by creating meditations on how violence in contemporary life is often random, anonymous and unpredictable. Triggering a visceral response, these films translate the experiences of the artists fear-filled childhood in Israel into provocative statements that have global resonance.