Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shai Kremer, Fallen Empires @ Julie Saul Gallery

I tend to be a little hard on Julie Saul and Yancey Richardson, but they are two of three real high-profile galleries in Chelsea dedicated to showing photography (and no, I am not counting Sonnabend; they are as much of a gallery as that futuristic clothing store up the block), and as such it is hard not to expect or at least desire a certain level of quality. Well, with Fallen Empire, Julie Saul has come through with an excellent show of photographs, if conservative and occasional flawed.

At Kremer’s best, she allows the viewer to form some very direct opinions on the current state of Israel. Instead of the crowded streets of CNN coverage of Jerusalem and Gaza, you get the remnants of destroyed buildings overlooking large panoramic landscapes, making it hard to understand in very reductive visual way why it is so hard to divvy up the area. Which doesn’t even get into the fact that the very attractive image of twisted red metal is a remnant of an illegal Israeli settlement on Palestinian land that was torn down by the Israeli government. This is photography at its most direct and beautiful, a picture that goes further then just showing an attractive landscape.

But at times the work starts to feel like pictures from a National Geographic story on Biblical relics, especially when taking on ancient history. For instance Kremer’s twilight shot of an ancient wall by the shore with a long exposure turning the Mediterranean into a very sexy coat of purple have. In the end, you are still left with a picture that shows things that are old and at sunset look pretty nice.

The work is by no means reinventing the wheel, but if you can’t appreciate a shot from above of a highway ending at some unguarded ruin in the desert, then you are in the wrong medium. Fallen Empires almost makes up for Julie Saul’s last show of drawings from the woman who does Cathy cartoons for The New Yorker.

Through Oct. 15th


Post a Comment