J. John Priola's 'Nuture: Willow', 2014; archival pigment print (40.25 x 29.5 in.) (Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim)
J. John Priola is an accomplished photographer with numerous bodies of work under his belt. For his current show - 'Nurture' - at Gallery Paule Anglim, Priola has presented a body of work that is easily recognizable, but also leaves us feeling uneasy with the implications of its subject matter.
J. John Priola's 'Nuture: Grey Wall', 2014; archival pigment print (18 x 24.5 in.) (Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim)
For this series, Priola has ventured through the urban cityscape of (most likely) San Francisco, where he lives and teaches (though it could be any city), and captured images of those places where the man made elements of buildings, fences, sidewalks, etc. interact with the plants and trees put there by planters, gardeners, and park managers. To be sure, these are not images one would find in Better Homes and Gardens. Rather, the majority are the anti-beauty of the tree limb cut off summarily because it blocked access to a path; the neglected foliage that has run a muck, been tackled a bit, and then neglected again; the over-pruned juniper bush or jade plant, standing resolute against the tyranny inflicted upon it. There are also those which show both the beauty that planned wildness can bring or that working around the circumstances of a tree trunk is a possibility outside the use of destructive force. They are few however, befitting the reality of rampant neglect or radical intervention afflicting the majority of urban foliage.
J. John Priola's 'Nuture: Entry', 2014; archival pigment print (40.25 x 29.5 in.) (Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim)
The images also contain other elements too, balancing the harshness of the reality their subjects face. While that juniper bush may have been pruned to be nearly just a trunk, it is still surviving, growing, and adapting to the circumstances of its existence. The land may have been paved over, but dirt and seeds accumulate in the cracks, sprouting life. These works show the perseverance of life to continue on, regardless of the level of stress humanity inflicts upon it. In that way, these wounded warriors and tortured saints remind us that while the human species will one day come to an end, life will continue to endure in one form or other on this planet for a long time to come. Thus, there is hope for life in the long term, just not necessarily for us.
J. John Priola's 'Nuture: Alley', 2014; archival pigment print (40.25 x 29.5 in.) (Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim)