Natural Light marks a return to the studio for Priola, whose previous bodies of work have consisted of streetscapes wherein objects, either cast aside on front lawns or carefully set out as a charitable donations, make reference to the individuals who place them there. Though working in a consciously controlled setting, his new images are a study of the unruly.
Grow, Parasite, Foliage, Tree Tags, Posies, and Cuts, (produced between 2016 – 2018) encapsulate Priola’s fascination with the ever-contrary natural world. Both its quirks and somber impassivity are amplified by humanity’s interventions, and Priola’s deft use of lighting and composition draws careful attention to these seductive peculiarities.
His images of potted houseplants and vibrant arrangements of synthetic flowers are subtly anthropomorphic. Domestic greenery, presented with all the trappings of traditional portrait photography, is purposefully imbued with human characteristics. Priola, who borrowed plants from neighbors and acquaintances, characterizes the images as an opportunity to discover people through the objects they care for.
The playfulness of Grow and Posies is tempered by the pathos of Foliage, presented here as a grid of 20 images. Each photograph consists of a delicate wreath of branches, leaves, or flowers set against a deep black ground, all haunting in their own particular way. Softly-lit with deep shadows, the foliage beckons the viewer forward into a void — making palpable Priola’s innate sense of attraction and repulsion.
J. John Priola is based in San Francisco and teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received his MFA in 1987.
J. John Priola: Natural Light
Exhibition Dates: February 7 – March 9, 2019
Anglim Gilbert Gallery
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107