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Night Gallery has built a laissez-faire reputation over the past five years for putting on trendy exhibitions, commonly of the painting persuasion. Therefore, an austere photography show by Israeli-born Barak Zemer comes as something of a pleasant, though savvy, contrast. Unlike those of many other contemporary picture-makers, Zemer’s compositions do not rely on superfluous post-production trickery, fashionable frames, or quirky installations. They stand on their own as unpredictable images and uncanny ideas.
Zemer’s visual depictions are allusive with regards to social conditions and constructs, yet elusive with regards to the specific subjects and scenes on which he focuses. Meanwhile, the titles are consistently straightforward, even deadpan. The exhibition’s title, Transit, is an appropriate word to encapsulate Zemer’s meandering photographic practice. His photo of the same name from 2017 shows an apple shoved in an overturned pint glass, with the makeshift sculpture placed on the dashboard of a car on the highway—stasis in motion. In the double entendre of Gate (2017), a large model airplane is curiously propped up behind a stanchion and a sofa near the boarding zone of an anonymous airport—motion in stasis. Three Eyes (2017) is an awkward portrait of a silver-haired, silver-toothed man with man’s best friend; only the canine’s two eyes are visible, with his head blocking out one side of his presumed owner’s sported shades. The man hams it up for the camera, while the pet stares ahead—is he scared or just stoic?
Zemer reveals time and again that he would rather disregard current fads, often fueled by irony and deflection, and follow his tumbling yet trustworthy gut instead. Despite the hint of slickness permeating this body of work, there is also a strangeness and sensitivity inherent within each piece—the kind not typically found in the soul cycle of today’s art world and its conjoined capitalist market. This is the portrait of an emerging artist lamenting on the earnestness of saying something important.
Barak Zemer: Transit runs from January 20–March 3, 2018 at Night Gallery (2716 E. 16th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021).