Putnam Gallery Opening October 12 - November 16, 2012
The artwork of Jeri Eisenberg manages the neat trick of being both striking and nuanced at the same time. Whenever I see her work anew, I invariably have an Ooohh! Aaaaah! moment, yet her work is delicate and subtle in more ways than one.
Jeri is an unabashed accolite of Venus, an advocate of beauty and its role in healing and nourishing human beings.
When first approached, her work is taken in all at once , it isn’t read slowly part by part. Following a strategy of Zen minimalism, her work is an homage to the spatially ambiguous interplay of negative and positive space. Her work is at home in a contemporary gallery as it would be along side the calligraphic renderings of bamboo in ancient, Asian, sumi brush paintings. This dominance of negative and positive shape forces one to see the work first as a carefully balanced whole.
Jeri is a photographer with a painter’s eye. By purposely blurring out detail and distracting backgrounds, she forces us to see the beauty found in the dance between the leaves and branches and the space around them. Her work reveals beauty that is sometimes hidden from us in the rush of daily life and its own distracting details, the way fractal geometry reveals a delicious logic behind what we had always assumed was a chaotic mess.
It is the combination of composition and color that completes the “Ohh Ahh! moment”. Also freed from weighty detail, her colors positively sing out against the white washed backgrounds of an over exposed sky. It is color that is perhaps the most visceral, primal element of visual art. It is the one that gets us fastest, so fast we don’t even know what we are looking at and yet we already know we like it.
Graphic design, advertising, uses these strategies to sell us things a thousand times a day. But one rarely lingers over the graphics on a box of cereal, or the labels on a bottle of dish detergent. Linger you will though, over this artist’s work. Jeri’s work has held up to repeated viewings, sometimes even with second “Ooh Ahh” moments. The careful compositional dance, the rhythms in the flash of light and dark, the sinuous grace of tree limbs, the flush of color, they all ask for repeated viewing and almost against my will, I think, oh, I want that! Oh, this one is my favorite, they just ask to be lived with. The urge to take the feelings they elicit home is just so strong.
Jeri Eisenberg’s photos also dance along the border between abstraction and representation, a place I love to be taken. In that moment between seeing a jumble of shapes and then recognizing a meaningful image, is a chance to see how remarkable perception really is. Stand close to these photos and you are confronted with meaningless blobs of color. Walk backwards and the arrangement of blobs suddenly becomes, not just a picture, but one that is photographically correct. How do we “get it. ” Why does one group of shapes mean something and another mean nothing . How do pictures mean anything? Do we see with our eyes or our brains? Is sight a kind of interpreted construct achieved by choosing to ignore or accentuate one piece or type of data over another? Or are our eyes objective devices? How can one person, “see” one thing and another “see” something different? How often do you have to work really hard to point out what you see in the patterns of clouds?
Jeri Eisenberg’s work allows us to see the staggeringly beautiful in the “mundane” world we live in, and asks us to examine the incredibly complex event we call “Vision”, something we also take for granted day to day. I tell my photography students, “I should always know what you want me to see in photograph. It is your job to make me see what is right in front of my eyes in a way that teaches or exposes something I never noticed before, or that is worthy of a closer look. Anything that is in a photograph should help show me that or it shouldn’t be there at all.” I am delighted to have this opportunity for my students to see just how that is done.