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Expectations are unavoidable, and like a double-edged sword, they instigate both disillusionments and inspiration. This dichotomy is explored in two outwardly different solo exhibitions: Yoav Horesh in Serene Oasis and Shawn Bush in A Golden State cut to the heart of our human desire for a promised land, that elusive location of hopes and dreams. Now on view at Gallery Kayafas in Boston’s SoWa arts district through April 21st, 2018, there will be a First Friday reception with the artists on April 6th, 2018 from 5:30 – 8:00pm.
At first blush, neither the photographs nor the narratives depicted by Bush and Horesh seem to share any commonalities. Using a medium format rangefinder camera and color film that he scans and prints digitally, Shawn Bush photographs landscapes throughout California that question our historically majestic and romanticized representations of the expansive American West. Carting a 4”x 5” view camera on a tripod, Yoav Horesh makes B&W gelatin silver photographs of immigrants and refugees in Neve Sha’anan (“Serene Oasis” in English), a small, poor Tel Aviv neighborhood in Israel that shelters roughly 30,000 inhabitants of forty different nationalities on just 200 acres. While their images denote contrasting worlds, both Bush and Horesh examine expectations, prejudices and people’s adaptations to the perceived gulf between fantasy and reality.
Horesh’s photographs of the streets, homes and residents of Neve Sha’anan confront the callous intolerance and suspicious prejudice that has produced this Israeli microcosm of a rapidly shifting international scene. Originally built in the 1920’s by Jewish immigrants, today it is home to home to thousands of African, Asian, Eastern Europeans and Israelis, an amalgamation of citizens and newcomers, those struggling to survive and those working to gentrify the neighborhood. Horesh catches these cross currents in detailed gelatin silver images that are analytical and democratizing, drawing carefully balanced attention to foreground, background, minutiae and reflections. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
Photographed with deliberation over nearly three years, Horesh’s large format landscapes, interiors and portraits reward unhurried viewing, divulging an iterative, nuanced dialog between history and the present that swells in impact through the exhibit. The portraits Horesh makes are especially penetrating. Rather than the quick grab or surreptitious shot, he engages with his subjects, allowing us to delve into the souls of conflict, the physical remnants of memory and the insistent resilience in each set of eyes. In Serene Oasis, Horesh tastes the bittersweet intimations of history repeating itself alongside the enduring hopefulness necessary for survival in the terrifying conflicts we witness on almost every continent.
Shawn Bush’s photographs contrast the brilliant grandeur and disposable façades of California in his series A Golden State. They speak to the insidious encroachment of industry into utopia, all the while boasting the good life: a majestic backdrop nestles two concrete, fenced-in community pools; a dozen controlled fires burn incongruously across an open plain; luscious tropical plants are trapped against the window of a modern brick building; and a tanning bed promises sanitary beauty. In images that pit natural versus manufactured, exotic against banal and expansive against confined, Bush builds a flowing narrative around the gallery walls.
Bush’s documentary approach is understated, making his subtle and surprising images all the more pointed. They seem to wonder aloud that nobody notices the irony and ubiquity of his scenes. Serenely muted hues and wide-angle views divulge a rainbow arch springing up in the distance beyond a parking lot and the curious juxtaposition of a pumping rig crowded into a McDonald’s parking lot, both seemingly pledging bounty. In the gallery and in an accompanying artist-made book, Bush builds a narrative arc with a lively variety of vistas and close-ups, colors and perspectives, creating intriguing internal associations that mirror his myth shattering view. In A Golden State, the imposing scale of the environment and the pedestrian scale of daily life seem symbolically mismatched, reduced to a seductive promise.
Yoav Horesh’s Serene Oasis and Shawn Bush’s A Golden State will be on view through April 21st, 2018. A reception with the artists will take place on First Friday, April 6th, 2018 from 5:30 – 8:00pm. For more information, go to: http://www.gallerykayafas.com/
Feature Image: “G., N. & E. (Columbia) Neve Sha’anan, 2015” (Detail) gelatin silver print by Yoav Horesh (courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas, Boston).