Thursday, March 27, 2008

Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz, a New York photographer who often summers in Provincetown, is presenting photos of divers and blue blue swimming pools in his exhibition “The Elements: Air/Water Part 1” at New York’s Houk Gallery.

When I first saw them (I’ve only seen them in reproduction), they struck me as sweet nothings. But over time they’ve begun to charm me a little bit. Maybe it’s just that seductive ultramarine blue.

“The genesis of ‘The Elements: Air/Water, Part 1’ was sparked in July 2007, when Joel Meyerowitz was directing a video of Olympic divers from an underwater viewing room at a Florida pool,” according to a press release from his Tokyo gallery. “The repetition of dives had one thing in common; with every entry into the pool, an enormous plume of bubbles encased the diver. As each diver swam away, the bubbles coalesced into a cloud that rose to the surface and returned to the atmosphere. This small observation, about one element's transition into another, led him to think about the individual qualities of the four elements and their physical relationships. Meyerowitz responded immediately by beginning a study of the elements and making a commitment to observe what these essential facts of life would look like in video and photographs.”

The photos I’ve seen don’t live up to all this elemental talk. The video clip of somersaulting divers feels derivative of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film “Olympia,” Kon Ichikawa’s 1965 “Tokyo Olympiad,” and all the Olympic highlight reels they’ve inspired. With some Bill Viola thrown in. Though that first soaring image of the diver, and the way the somersaulting fellow just seems to hang in the air is, uh, sort of cool.

My review of Meyerotiz’s book “Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive,” featuring photos of the wreckage at and cleanup of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Joel Meyerowitz "The Elements: Air/Water Part 1,” Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Ave., suite 407, Feb. 21 to April 12, 2008.


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