The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Living On: Border Lines
Barry Frydlender
Yaffo - Tel Aviv
Photo by Barry Frydlender . Source:
Barry Frydlender, "Raid, 2003"

Barry Frydlender is living on borderlines, and the borders are constantly shifting. He can see the disruptions any day, from his studio window, right on the border that once separated Tel Aviv from Jaffa. His photographs document a changing neighborhood, in which every development leaves its mark on centuries of economic, political, and cultural divisions. Even to call the show "Yaffo–Tel Aviv" rather than "Tel Aviv–Jaffa" is to take a stand on shifting sands. Artists worrying about whether they live in East Williamsburg or Bushwick (and whether they can afford either one) have it easy. And language is only the beginning.

His photographs at Andrea Meislin may not look unsettled, but then why should they? After all, he is at home. With clear skies and ample sunlight, Frydlender has a view to all sides to die for, so perhaps it only makes sense that people have died to sustain or disrupt a fragile peace. He adopts deep focus, saturated hues, and a stable horizon, sometimes from several photos assembled digitally. Traffic is light, and cranes in the empty lots are at rest. To a New Yorker, even faceless high rises add a comforting familiarity and a point of stasis.

Photo by Barry Frydlender . Source:
Barry Frydlender, "The Flood, 2003"

Jacques Derrida titled an essay "Living On: Border Lines," with all the hopefulness of "living on" and the precariousness of how. He went on to connect events in distinct literary narratives. Frydlender's Tel Aviv is a kind of deconstructive architecture, in a place where Brutalism in architecture takes on fresh meaning, and the conflict between narratives just will not go away. As an observer, he may be obliged to mirror the conflicts himself. A night view, ominously titled Rehearsal, looks much like the military's infrared photography, and a high point of view asserts control. Yet he can also see light in the sky.

A thoroughly modern city, except when it is not, Tel Aviv merged with Jaffa in 1950, soon after the birth of Israel, when Jaffa was still an old city with historically a greater Arab population. Time and construction rapidly changed much of that, only starting with uniformly dreary modern buildings. Still, urban preservation is now a live issue, as elsewhere around the globe, and artists have moved into older neighborhoods in search of affordable rents, cultural roots, and each other. Look closely at Frydlender's photographs, and one can see all these tensions. One can also see signs of change.

Photo by Barry Frydlender . Source:
Barry Frydlender, "Rehearsal" 2014

He is surrounded by change, in lot after lot covered with falling bricks and scattered debris. Are the sites under construction or under demolition? The ambiguities and oppositions quickly multiply. Frydlender sees old and new, small and large, narrow passages and wider avenues. He finds palm trees in bloom and cars trapped in flooded streets, but also the aridity of the Middle East. He captures communities but also soldiers moving through.

They are not the only ones in confrontation or in motion. Painters and photographers alike often use emptiness to evoke human waste and disruption, like Rackstraw Downes in Texas or Juan Manuel Echavarría in Colombia. These photos, in contrast, have plenty of inhabitants, although tiny relative to the landscape as if caught up in more than they know, and they never stop moving. On a balcony, where residents and their guests surely ought to relax and take in the city, one glimpses instead a threesome—two in a sudden embrace while the third points off to something forever unseen. For all that, though, something is not going anywhere fast, in a region still struggling for a resolution. The show includes photographs from 2003 and 2013, and one can hardly tell which is which.

Photo by Barry Frydlender . Source:
Barry Frydlender, "Noach" 2014

Barry Frydlender
Yaffo - Tel Aviv

Andrea Meislin
534 W 24th St.
Chelsea         Map

212 627 2552

Thursday, May 8 to
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Hours: Tues - Sat, 10 to 6

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