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The Photographs of Adi Nes

Life of Israel

Adi Ness's striking photographs at the Legion of Honor create an otherworldly portrait of life in Israel. Ness turns the banality of daily life into the monumental. He lights and saturates his giant and elaborately-staged tableaux to reference nearly every iconic image type: classical paintings, films, fashion stills, even photojournalism and war photography.

The large images are both familiar and foreign. They immediately bring to mind the suburbia of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, where the narrative is so saturated and intense that it couldn't possibly be real but is yet so familiar and banal that it couldn't be anything else. His photographs deal with themes within adolescent Israeli identity. Born in Tel Aviv in 1966, Ness has been producing work for the past ten years. The exhibition which runs through July 18th at the Legion of Honor (included with price of admission) is an overview of his remarkable body of work.

Ness's photographs are examples of the strength of self-referential artwork. Ness brings a passion to his work that is often absent from the oversized postmodern musings of photographers such as Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky, or Cindy Sherman. In Untitled (1999), Ness recreates Da Vinciís Last Supper using Israeli soldiers as models. The figure of Christ sits sheepishly in the middle, his halo composed of a piece of desert shrubbery. On the far left, a thirteenth disciple gazes off-camera with a disdainful glower. Much of Ness's work seems motivated by disenchantment.

While he shares an important history with his country, he seems more interested in personal struggles. His photographs are clever, poetic musings on life for young Israelis. Ness grew up in a development town. His own aspirations for land, honor and military success were intertwined with his interpretations of the military hero. His photographs chronicle these aspirations in poetic, striking simplicity.


Between Promise and Possibility: The Photographs of Adi Nes runs through July 18
at California Palace of the Legion Of Honor
(Corner of 7th & Brannan)
34th and Clement, San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415.863.3330
Hours: Tue - Sun (11 am - 6 pm)