Last week I sat down with Zack Balber, the local conceptual artist behind Harry’s Riesling Pizzeria pop-up gallery commissioned by Locust Projects, to get his perspective on the grape and how it will be portrayed through his grandfather’s 1957 Polaroid camera. But Zack hadn’t come to talk fruit, exposure or aperture. “I’m going to be candid,” he started, “the truth is pretty ridiculous as it is.” Which is true, and as an artist in Miami, a city that is trying to define itself in the art world, Zack knows something about what it means to seek out truth.
His 2011 solo show at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Wynwood was titled Tamim, a hebrew word that means perfection. But a Google search of the word and his name reveals pictures of tattoo-covered, mohawk-wearing overweight men. Not exactly the image of perfect, in Hebrew or any other language. Balber didn’t mean the title to be ironic though, he meant for his lens to shed light on what’s shunned, hidden, or outside of a culture – like tattoos in Judaism – to show how the subjects are still pure, somehow, and true to themselves.
As he embarked on the Riesling project, wine director Eric Larkee invited Zack to attend an industry tasting. He brought his camera along and immediately knew what he would do with the pictures. He saw people all buttoned up, conventionally perfect one might say. But through his lens, a past touched by addiction, imprisonment and death, he decided to blur those lines and take the wine out of the crystal glass for a chance, a taste, to artistically explore all sides of the Riesling wine and grape.
“We know that photoshop has made people question images,” Zack contined. “So what if I can play on this distrust in the viewer? They’ll look at the polaroids from a 1957 camera and see digital images. It’ll be Polaroids masquerading as digital, digital masquerading as Polaroids. I’ve been listening to a lot of dubstep lately.”
Zack went on about how Skrillex, an electronic music producer, combines melodies and bass lines to sort of calm you down and pick you up, make you feel comfortable, and also take you our of your element. Balber has never been about shooting what is conventionally beautiful. Not unlike other artists of our generation, his work is confronting.
“I’ve been thinking about our economy, about how our generation doesn’t fight against it, about summertime in South Florida, and making it about all of us.”
Tickets are available to his July 17 showing for $40, as well as for the dinner following (which include four courses with wines, a signed Zack Balber print from the pop-up gallery to take home, and tax and gratuity) for $120 are on-sale now from Harry’s Pizzeria exclusively at Brown Paper Tickets.