The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

What Mideast War?
Stephen Shore
Photo by Stephen Shore . Source:
Stephen Shore, "Jerusalem, Israel, January 11, 2010"

Stephen Shore puts one right in the middle of the action. Not that he evokes a singular sense of place, at 303 through October 25, but then he is entering contested ground. Shore photographs Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Ukraine, and each gets a separate wall. Titles pinpoint the location and date. They had better, for it can be the only way to tell things apart. If that sounds disorienting, so are the region and his artistry.

Photo by Stephen Shore . Source:
Stephen Shore, "Room 509, Dnipro Hotel, Kiev, Ukraine, July 18, 2012"

The installation alone is unsettling, with more than half the photographs stacked as if to get them over and done. Compositions have the same deceptive artlessness. Fruit and vegetables look like aging and discarded still-lifes. A boy sleeps behind a window's clouded glass. An archaeological site seems to have fallen into ruins just the other day. An elderly man and woman sit silently at a kitchen table, in different photos from different regions of the world, in close-ups that seem to cut them off from the stream of life.

Photo by Stephen Shore . Source:
Stephen Shore, "Home of Abram and Malka Dikhtayar, Bazalia, Ukraine, July 27, 2012"

They might belong to the record of a single stay somewhere in the Middle East, without a trace of war. Huge apartment towers loom over a desert landscape that could be anywhere. Distant scenes share the scrubby dryness of an infertile planet. An old phone and a bust of Stalin have their place in time, but somewhere distant and long ago. A man still sports a chest full of medals from some forgotten war. And yet they are so close.

Photo by Stephen Shore . Source:
Stephen Shore, "Jerusalem, Israel, September 23, 2009"

Shore takes far more care than may appear. He catches the vulnerability in each person and moment. It can emerge overtly, as little girls rush past the ultra-orthodox on their way to something unknown, or implicitly, in the harsh lighting. Even interiors share a desert sun. And that harshness and vulnerability speak to conflict, every bit as much as soldiers in Tel Aviv for Barry Frydlender. Did the New Museum call art of the Arab lands "Here and Elsewhere"? Here, too, everywhere is somewhere else.

Unsettling has a particular meaning in shattered, illegal settlements. For the most part, though, the actors do not take sides, at least not since Stalinism. And no wonder, where right so often collides with right. The archaeological dig and apartment towers hang side by side, looking equally lasting and intricate. Shore is not pointing fingers and assigning blame. He speaks only to uncertain futures in a time of war.

Photo by Stephen Shore . Source:
Stephen Shore, "Home of Lyubov Brenman, Borispol, Ukraine, July 19, 2012"

Stephen Shore

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