Vivid purple, yellow and green feathers grow out of his face, peacock feathers crown his head, and green feathers wrap around his neck. A beard pokes through and a trenchcoat covers his body. An avian humanoid or a man in a Purim costume?
At his New York debut at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, Israeli photographer Pavel Wolberg says he is intrigued “by things that want to be something else.” Indeed, Wolberg’s visually engaging photographs draw you in, and then surprise you – often in a disquieting way, sometimes with humor. A thickly grown wheat field at the Gaza border hides two soldiers — taking a nap. Shells blaze out of a tank in Kiryat Shmona, as a soldier recites morning prayers in the foreground. In Tel Aviv, a couple walks down the beach, which is decorated with palm trees made of light bulbs.
Irony also flavors Wolberg’s photos of Chasidic Jews. In one, a Chasidic wedding reception takes place on a basketball court. The bride, covered in white from head to toe, stands alone in the center court circle. She is tethered by a long white cloth to the rabbi of the community who stands in the three-point arc. Hundreds of men watch this sacred moment from the sidelines, like fans at a basketball game. Ironic, yet poetic. Russian born, Wolberg is the great grandson of a Chasidic rabbi and his photos display a respectful curiosity of that community.
Wolberg immigrated to Israel at 9 years old. After serving in the Israeli Army, he decided to become a photographer and attended the Camera Obscura Art School. He is a keen observer with a sympathetic eye.
The large-format prints in this well-curated show are graciously displayed — you can take in one at a time and remember them long after you leave. Don’t miss it.
The exhibition at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, 534 West 24th Street, continues until June 15th; Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm.
Caroline G. Harris is a writer, amateur photographer and a land use attorney with GoldmanHarris LLC.