Gilad Ophir's (b. 1957) photographs are well-known for their critical, examining nature and for referring to historical, social and institutional processes as well as to natural and artificial disintegrations, reflected in the landscape and in various types of architecture. Ophir, one of the most important photographers active in the past two decades in Israel, observes the development of social ideologies through the less-presentable aspects of architecture, i.e. in construction and collapse, as well as the relations between the means of power and regime with their products. In recent years, in addition to his dealing with the place, its crises and its cultural baggage, Ophir has developed new and autonomous processes of photographic work that combine notions of abstractions with the materiality of objects.
The surprising collection of works from the past 20 years, including new photographs, enables a new reading of Ophir's work, plundering the careful organization that characterized not only the internal aesthetics of his photographs but also his series' methodological work and coherent continuum of presentation. The exhibition presents photographs from the series "Necropolis" (some of which were exhibited and bought by the Tate Modern for its permanent collection), the "city of the dead" that has become a myth in the history of Israeli photography. Deserted army bases, military training areas and shooting targets are presented as if they were silent vestiges of violence and monuments to power, creating a bright link, in the harsh, contrasting mid-day light, between postmodernism in Israeli landscape photography and the post-trauma of a horrified society before and after war, while conquering impulse, lands and wilderness. Alongside and among these photographs are works from the series "Works and Days" which Ophir began photographing in 2006. These works examine Bedouin architectural foundations, a bridge being built, a pile of earth alongside which local vegetation grows on the borrowed time between concrete castings, and a winter field sown with rows of stones, organized like a ceremonial yard awaiting a spectacle. In this context, a pair of smoke photographs is considered as a sublime abstraction of disrupted landscape. The fireless smoke does not rise above a fire in the field, but is dispersed like an optical illusion, filling the surface of the photograph like a screen that does not obscure details but rather exposes its own materiality.
Ophirs works refer to local culture, but hold a dialogue with the history of photography, exposing the interesting affinity between American photography and
the European sources of typological photography.
The exhibition is on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
until March 22, 2014.