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J. John Priola and Jean Conner
Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by DeWitt Cheng

J. John Priola, "Nurture, Willow," 2014, archival pigment print, 29 1/2 x 40 1/4"

Continuing through February 7, 2015

The mid-sized color photographs of J. John Priola and the intricate collages of Jean Conner turn today’s ambiguity of the real into satisfying, coherent images.

Priola focuses on the intersection of the natural environment and human activity in gardens and parks, finding formal beauty in fences, sidewalks, and houses adorned (or invaded) by foliage. They’re both wryly ironic and matter-of-fact, like the black and white photos of Robert Adams, which revolutionized the tradition of landscape photography. While certain pieces like "Nurture: Willow" and "Nurture: Bougainville" appear at first to merely record houses and gardens, the compositional beauty makes the viewer linger. Other photos demonstrate their wit with a sly humor: "Nurture: String," with its bush on a leash; "Nurture: Cypress," with its two-foot-tall spire; "Nurture: Grey Wall," with its splayed, trellised shrub seemingly searching for light along a plaster wall scumbled with a painterly shadow; "Nurture: Grass," with its square of hemmed-in city verdure; and "Nurture: Entry," with its caged and free-range ficus trees.

Conner finds her subject matter in the found imagery of magazines, which she recontextualizes in the Dadaist/Surrealist tradition of Max Ernst, George Grosz and Hannah Hoch. Thirteen collages are on view, mostly page-sized or a little larger. The satirical "The Big Deal" imagines a scrum of football players greeting a returned astronaut. "Pearl Diver” pairs a gigantic fish eyeing a Japanese swimmer. "Angel in the Stable” features a glamour-girl angel of the annunciation. One complex large work, “Adoration," with its hectic masses and implied preference for individual enthusiasms over organized spectacle, may remind viewers of the work of Conner’s Beat-era contemporary, Jess Collins.

Anglim Gilbert Gallery (Minnesota Street)

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