Walking into Mark Swope’s exhibition of photographs at Craig Krull Gallery is to be greeted by a surprisingly expressive juniper. Like an onion left too long in the produce bin, it is rounded and full at the base, erupting into a burst of tempestuous, flame-like tendrils up top.
This exuberant flourish seems wholly out of proportion with the modest stucco home behind it, creating an appealing tension between the wild and the mundane. In progress for about a decade, Swope’s series “Foliage” provides a humorous, sometimes startling glimpse into the hidden life of domestic shrubbery.
Or perhaps not so hidden. In image after image, Swope finds moments of fantasy embedded in everyday suburban landscapes: geometric topiary gone rogue, hulking ivy monsters gingerly spreading their skirts across the sidewalk or tangles of branches as blustery as a Turner landscape.
It’s a tumult we seldom notice walking down the street (when we walk), and it only becomes visible through Swope’s disciplined, New Topographics-style framing: clear, central, straightforward, and plain enough to let the quiet drama of plants emerge.