Imagine if you could have rubbed elbows with Matisse or Picasso at a reception for one of their exhibitions. How might they have explained their work? What secrets would they have revealed?
They’re long gone, of course. The next best thing may have come last week at Morristown’s Atrium Gallery, where Adel Gorgy was among the artists on hand for the official opening of the gallery’s Winter 2012 exhibit.
Adel’s contribution is called Seeing Art Anew, a collection of eye-popping photographs that reinterpret familiar works in unfamiliar ways.
As colorful as these creations are, the man behind them is even more so.
Born in Egypt, where he earned a medical degree, Adel left his homeland to escape persecution as a Coptic Christian. He lived in France, Switzerland and England before settling in the U.S., where he has a nephrology practice on Long Island.
Over the years he has honed a process called “Differential Color Absorption” to create digital, archival, wall-sized prints inspired by colors and textures and brush strokes of masterpieces. The exercise has focused him on the meaning and purpose of art.
“It starts with a vision. What do you want to create?” Adel said. “You have to think out of the box. But you have to use all of your technical experience that you have developed over the years.”
Winter 2012 at the Atrium. Photos by Scott Schlosser
Adel scoffs at the notion of photographic “purity.” The camera and computer are tools that impose their own sets of limitations and filters on the artist’s subject matter. Black-and-white is an artificial construct. It’s the same for a painter; his brushes and paints and canvases influence how his perception of reality is translated.
“The medium doesn’t matter,” he said. “Ultimately, the image you create says it all.”
For Adel, photography is a passport to a place of self-awareness.
“Photography enables us to look and discover there is nothing ordinary in life. If you look hard enough, nothing is ordinary,” he said.
His extraordinary explorations don’t come cheap. He uses a $10,000 HP large-scale printer to do justice to his 500-megabyte digital files. Ink and paper can run upwards of $700 per print, he said.
Yet Adel thinks it’s a small price to pay for revelations.
“Art has the purpose of making us awake and aware,” he said. “The greatest art is the art of life, the art of being alive.”
It’s a world view shaped by Adel’s experience as a minority. As a Copt in Egypt, he said, “it was not enough to be good, or to be very good. You have to be exceptional to accomplish something. Otherwise, you will be crushed.”
His journey has made him proud to call himself an American.
“The best country in the world is here,” Adel said. “There is no other country in the world where you can get into it and call it your own country and people will take you in and it will be your country. Come to the United States, and you will be an American.”
Here, he believes, the only obstacle to success is ourselves.
“We are never handicapped in life. Look at everything with an open mind and good spirit and nothing stops your success.”
Adel Gorgy is among eight artists whose works are on display through March 13 at the Atrium Gallery, in the Morris County Administration and Records Building at 10 Court Street in Morristown. Admission is free during weekday business hours. The exhibition is curated by the Arts Council of the Morris Area.