A still from the 2006 video "Big Bang" (click on the title to watch a clip from the piece)
The Israeli artst Ori Gersht has had an explosive impact in the art world—literally. He's best known for videos that start out looking like restagings of Old Master still lifes, then as you wait for nothing to happen, a great deal does: a vase of flowers, based on a canvas by the Dutch master Jan van Huysum, gets blown up in balletic slow motion; a pomegranate derived from the Spanish painter Juan Sánchez Cotán is ripped apart by a bullet, causing a supersonic passage through the fruit that takes seconds to unfold. Those videos will be the star attractions of Ori Gersht: History Repeating, the artist's first full-scale survey, open as of Aug. 28 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. For those who think his signature works are built around a simple shtick (artist-blows-up-old-still-lifes), Gersht has explained that his ambition is to have viewers start out seduced by the beauty of a scene, and then confront "this moment of realization, of recognition, of all of a sudden discovering that what we are actually looking at is a brutal, sometimes a grotesque, sometimes an extremely violent moment"—with maybe the implication that beauty is always at risk of destruction, and might get its force from that risk. It is worth pointing out that Gersht's other works in Boston include footage of an elderly Israeli dancer who once refused to perform for her Nazi jailers, and photos of the landscapes where partisans resisted the Germans in Poland.
– Blake Gopnik