Reviewed: Renate Aller at Adamson Gallery
Renate Aller’s previous show at Adamson Gallery—a decade's worth of sea-and-sky photographs taken from the same point on southern Long Island—was rousing success, offering hyper-real portrayals within ever-changing atmospheric conditions. But Aller's new exhibit demonstrates the perils of taking a good idea a step too far. Titled “dicotyledon,” after a flowering plant that grows in pairs, Aller’s new work places two contrasting images side by side, typically one larger-scale landscape and one more targeted depiction, such as an animal. Aller asks viewers to “make the connections of multiple experiences," but doing so trades the simplicity of her old approach for the uncertainties of seemingly random pairings. Take “Plate #4,” which combines a dreamlike image of bridge pilings reflected in choppy water and a photograph of two horses inexplicably stuck in a trash-strewn alley. In isolation, both images are intriguing; together, not so much. Somewhat more sensible is the marriage of an amber-tinted aspen forest and a portrait of a woman with long, red hair reclining amid greenery (top). Still, the most impressive works in the show are those that largely stand on their own. “Plate #5” features an elephant-gray tableau of gnarled roots and rocky outcroppings, with a wisp of green so enigmatic it’s hard to tell whether it’s natural or a stray bit of trash. Aller's finest piece in the exhibit is a six-part, almost cubist photographic matrix depicting tree branches and sky, shown in bright sun and limned in lovely shades of beige and ice blue. This work represents a stylistic break from Aller’s seascapes, but a far more welcome one.
The exhibition is on view 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesday to Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday to May 31 at Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St.