Andrea Meislin Gallery is pleased to announce Igael Shemtov’s first solo exhibition at the gallery: The Photo Album 1979-1980. Photographed in Israel between the years 1979-1980, this extensive body of work depicts trivial events and objects in everyday life. Building on an aesthetic taken from ‘family photos,’ The Photo Album attempts to summarize the essence of a place, of a reality, of a given moment in time.
During the late 1970’s while working as a quality controller at a Kodak lab in Israel, Shemtov was exposed to vast amounts of family photographs, a genre he set to explore as a marker of Israeli society. Documenting the living environment of the lower middle class, and placing special emphasis on kitsch, Shemtov created images that are telling yet critical at the same time. He explains: “My work’s aim is to document views and facts, putting together a sort of pictorial inventory that will eventually portray the place, at least for me. Like an anthology of pictures.”
In The Photo Album, Shemtov explored the aesthetic properties of amateur family snapshots and translated them into a conceptual tool. The images from the series often seem blurry, out of focus and haphazard—yet in a closer look reveal themselves as carefully built compositions. In his unique sense of formalism, Shemtov constructs an autonomous pictorial space in which content dictates form.
Many of the images that comprise the vast body of work of The Photo Album were printed and presented for the first time in 2015 for a show at Baxter Street Camera Club of New York, curated by Shemtov’s former student, artist Rona Yefman. The current iteration of the project at Andrea Meislin Gallery is an expansion and an extension of the Baxter Street show. Through the dimension of the time passed, these images achieve an additional significance and evoke a strong emotional effect.
Igael Shemtov received his artistic training from Israel’s leading conceptual artists, a fact that helped shape his approach to image-making. Since 1979 he has been a faculty member of the Photography, Video, and Computer Imaging Department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, acting as the chair from 1994 to 2000. Eventually his role as an educator turned to be an important aspect of his practice and his career. His distinctive vocabulary and individual perspective have influenced generations of Israeli photographers while he single handedly helped form the photography field in Israel.