In her poem “Being Pharaoh,” Beckian Fritz Goldberg writes: “Each time we fall out of love we / say it wasn’t really love at all, as if / landing a plane would say no, not / actual sky. While I am in the dark.” Seeing Ori Gersht’s photographs at CRG Gallery I am plunged into this idea of denying my own experience, insisting that a thing that was deeply felt was actually illusory — not because the come down is so hard, but because the thing I see doesn’t quite abide by the rules.
Looking at “Hanging Sky 05” (2016), I see reflections of the sky in a lake, along with a trail of trees along the far shoreline combined with the small heads of plants sticking out the water’s surface. I know it’s water I’m looking at because of the lines of striation created on its surface throughout the image, but the sky and lake are melded so seamlessly the rational part of me can’t parse what is truly up and what is down, what is here and what is there, what is ocean and what is firmament. I find out from reading about Gersht’s work and this show, which represents three distinct bodies of work — Hide and Seek-If Not Now When from 2008, Chasing Good Fortune from 2010, and Floating World from 2016 — that he fiddles with the original image in his postproduction process. Aspects of the image are fused and inverted, reflections made into a world you can visually swim in. This is how to fall in love.
Having been a photographer myself, I appreciate him flouting other rules, such as the rule of thirds, for example in his piece “Hide and Seek: If Not Now When #01” (2008), where the horizon line is right smack in the middle of the composition, more or less evenly dividing the viewer’s attention between the water and the atmosphere above it. Despite Gersht not making a more determined choice about where to make the viewer look, the image is compelling. It is ethereal and eldritch and paired with the photograph to its right — “Hide and Seek: If Not Now When 03” (2008/17) — of a lone figure in a boat surrounded by the sea, the entire exhibition suggests that I don’t ever have to land. Gersht’s landscapes mean to cradle me in that oceanic, amniotic fluid where land, sky and sea never quite meet and are never really apart.