The large-scale photographs in Sharon Ya’ari’s first solo exhibit at the Andrea Meislin Gallery beg for explanation. Why, for instance, is there a smoky haze in the two images called “Rashi Street, Tel Aviv?”
Ya’ari, 48, who is based in Tel Aviv, carefully observes his surroundings through his camera lens. Most of his pictures are shot with a 4×5-inch camera; he continues to mainly work with film. Place is very important to him. He likes to return to sites to document change, however small it might be. This act of noticing, photographing and producing oversized prints invites viewers to participate in this contemplative act as well, to spend a few moments in front of these solemn, indeterminate works.
Take the image entitled, “ANZAC Monument.” Many Americans will not know the meaning of it, which is that it is a memorial for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought in the Middle East, but might simply see a large concrete structure with some metal netting draped ungracefully over the top in the foreground, some trees in the background, and nothing else.
In a recent artist talk that Ya’ari presented with Christopher Phillips, a curator at the International Center of Photography, Ya’ari noted that he considers this photograph a portrait. It may be lacking people, the primary thing we normally associate with portraits; rather, it is a study of an abstract war monument. The photograph’s lack of color adds to its forlorn sense.
Back to the Rashi Street pictures, Ya’ari assures the group that the smoke is not from an explosion as many feared, but from a building demolition.
“Bridge with Flowers, Route 42” depicts a pedestrian footbridge near a road. There was a glitch in the printing of this image, leaving blackened edges and splotches that add to the mystery of this empty scene. The bridge is beige concrete and at the top of the bridge is a small vase of flowers. “What is the purpose of this bridge?” Ya’ari was asked by someone in the group assembled for his talk. Instead of telling everyone the bridge’s purpose, he preferred to say he felt that its role is simply to provide a space for the flowers.
Sharon Ya’ari’s photos are on view at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, 534 West 24th Street, New York, through April 26th.
Caroline Lagnado is an arts writer in New York.