It's rare that such large and varied group exhibition — photos, paintings, sculptures installations and collages, 82 pieces in all — should have the high level of artistry and an equally high level of social relevance as does “Summertime,” currently at Jenkins Johnson Gallery.
A previous solo exhibition at the gallery featured 92 pieces by celebrated photographer Gordon Parks, who achieved fame through his work with the Farm Security Administration in the early 1940s. The show was so popular that “Summertime” includes a number of those photos along with some of Parks' new pieces.
One particularly striking image is of a well-dressed African-American woman and a child standing outside a bus terminal. Aspects of the scene are ordinary and conventional (and even a slightly prosperous-looking large neon sign), yet the sign's words, “Colored Entrance” as they highlight segregation, give the historical and political significance.
In dramatic contrast is Scott Prior's oil painting, “Winter, Windows Sunset,” a picture of bottles containing different colored liquids, one containing a flower, in front of a window. Beautifully, it is both naturalistic and dreamy. The colors in the bottles, and those outside the window, have a rich glow.
Ben Aronson's oil on panel, “Gardenia,” is another painting with colors and forms exuding a dreamlike richness.
The exhibition is on two levels, one devoted to 36 of Parks' works. While thought-provoking images of the black experience dominate, not all of the works focus solely on social and political issues. For example, “Duke Ellington Listening to Play-Back” captures the musical icon in a seemingly reflective mood (and has a reflection of the maestro as well).
The exhibit also includes works by Lynn Aldrich, Lalla Essaydi, Tim Etchells, Scott Fraser, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Julian Opie, Vanessa Prager, Skip Steinworth and Nancy Switzer.
Where: Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 464 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closes Aug. 30
Contact: (415) 788-4641, www.jenkinsjohnsongallery.com