September 20, 2002
New York reconstructed
Nomi Kaplan depicts walls before and after Sept. 11.
PAT JOHNSON REPORTER
Images of New York that portray torn remnants and shards of things
lost are common now, especially after the remembrance events surrounding
Sept. 11. But Nomi Klein's new exhibit of photo montages provides
a disorienting feel of the Big Apple before last year's terrible
Kaplan lived in New York City for a year in 1991 and took extensive
pictures of the walls in her neighborhood urban palettes
covered with posters, torn down and replaced, which created a montage
in themselves. Kaplan then tore these photographs and superimposed
on them other images, often modern depictions but also ancient and
Medieval figures, to create a contrast of images and epochs.
The exhibit, titled Off the Wall, opened on Sept. 12, with reminders
of the New York catastrophe fresh in the minds of the audience.
It continues at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery at the Jewish
Community Centre of Greater Vancouver until Oct. 23.
Walls have been used in art and history to provide barriers, but
Kaplan's ripped and reconstructed images are meant to undermine
the concreteness of those barriers. At one point, she explicitly
recalls Ronald Reagan's exhortation in Berlin: "Mr. Gorbachev,
tear down the wall."
Though most of Kaplan's pieces were created more than a decade ago,
she added four, in the same style, in the past year, which reflect
the changed nature of New York's torn fabric. In one, a photo of
Osama bin Laden is imposed on a city wall.
In "Wall Jungle," Kaplan forces a dissonance between wild
and tame by imposing elephants against the distinctly urban image
of posters and graffiti. Or perhaps she is implying that wildness
exists in many forms and locations.
In "Open Wide," she has imposed on the chaos of her walls
a pristine archway, again challenging her observers to question
their perceptions of order and chaos; of imposed barriers and inviting
"Eye of the Beholder" offers a richly apparelled woman,
maybe a Medieval noblewoman, against a contemporary female bodybuilder,
implying that perceptions of beauty, like seemingly permanent walls,
can wear down or change over time.
Kaplan, a Vancouver artist, said she was thrilled to have the exhibit
at the Zack Gallery because the JCC feels like home.
"It means more to me to have a show here than it does to have
a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery," she said.
Kaplan imagines the pasting of posters on walls as a continuation
of the ancient art of scrawling on cave walls. By photographing
the ever-changing canvas of urban walls, she retains these moments
for posterity. By adding her own interpretations, whether the fragility
of a bird or an image of war's horror, she translates the meaning
of these arbitrary images and gives them a new context.