Walking into yet another show that focuses on September 11th can start to feel monotonous: the buildings on fire, mass piles of destruction, firemen crying because of loss. Thirteen years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, it’s all been done. I thought.
Shai Kremer’s World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract exhibition at Julie Saul Gallery (525 W 22nd St, Chelsea, through October 25th, 2014) was a refreshingly different take on the destruction and rebuilding of the World Trade Center that looked deep into the chaos and destruction of that fateful day, and balanced it with the order and rebirth of the Freedom Tower.
A 2005 graduate of the School of Visual Arts‘ MFA program in Photography and Related Media, this was not Kremer’s first solo show. His solo exhibitions (Concrete Abstract, Fallen Empires, and Infected Landscapes) have been circling the globe since 2004. Born in Israel, much of Kremer’s previous work focused on the military’s impact in his home country. Infected Landscapes explored the “social and environmental impact of military combat,” and his work, Fallen Empires, explored Israel’s “militaristic history and its impact on the land” (Julie Saul Gallery).
The pieces in World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract were created by combining abstract photographs made with large format cameras (in order to capture the immense detail of the subjects) and found photographs from after the September 11th attacks. The digital manipulation and layering, at variable opacities, of multiple images of steel, concrete, and construction equipment, combined with the stark imagery of the aftermath, created abstract imagery that almost felt like that of a painting. The use of Photoshop was obvious, but aided, rather than detracted, from Kremer’s work.
The artist intended to “pay homage to America, to New York, to their traumas and their recovery,” while linking “accumulation, destruction, and reconstruction” (Julie Saul Gallery). Looking at the eight images in the Julie Saul Gallery, I got a feeling of hope for rebirth. The large prints (measuring on average four feet by six feet) appear to have an almost three dimensional nature, and require a thorough viewing from many distances and angles in order to fully appreciate their depth. From a distance, I was looking at geometric abstractions of disorganization made of color and texture, but when I moved closer, the imagery of rubble piles, construction apparatuses, and reconstruction efforts become readily apparent.
Contrasts are abundant in Kremer’s exhibition. The beauty of the imagery as a whole is complimented by the exhibition’s simple framing on stark white walls, while the abstract nature of the imagery contrasted with the organized nature of the city’s framework, and the construction taking place.
Kremer took a disaster that brought chaos to New York City, and masterfully created a beautiful exhibition that combined both chaos and order, destruction and rebirth, into each individual image.
Kevin Michael Reed is a theatre maker from New York City living in Dublin and London. His production credits have included producer, director, playwright, dramaturg and designer. He is Artistic Director of Squire Lane Theatrical UK, a theatre production company specialising in developing new works for the stage. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a MA in Playwriting from City, University of London, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.