There are no clouds in McCutchen’s photo illustrations, which usually turn their open spaces into expanses of pure day-glo. The artist often contrasts complementary colors — blue and yellow, green and magenta — to make the images pop.
“Pop” is exactly what McCutchen’s work recalls, and he knows it. Two sets of four prints, each identical except for the hues, are titled “Homage to Andy,” as in Warhol. Although these pictures don’t use well-known faces or brands, McCutchen does share Warhol’s interest in immediacy, repetition and decontextualizing the everyday. Terms such as “decontextualizing” often warn of a tough artistic slog, but not this time. “Tracks” is a lot of fun.
The Hill Center, which opened in November, is full of art by Capitol Hill residents. It’s in hallways, foyers and several galleries named for local historical figures. Appropriately, the room that salutes pioneering photographer Mathew Brady currently holds work by Colin Winterbottom, who takes a traditional photographic approach to the city’s neoclassical buildings. He still uses film and produces black-and-white images.
In Winterbottom’s case, “traditional” doesn’t mean staid. He shoots some of the most-shot D.C. landmarks — including the one that gives Capitol Hill its name — but from unusual vantage points and at unexpected tilts. The richly detailed, large-format prints include an off-kilter 1999 view of the Capitol dome, seen from a catwalk well into the sky, and a 2009 one of the McMillan filtration plant, looking upward from its shadowy bowels. Besides dramatic angles, the photographer often employs skinny, highly vertical compositions, and sometimes uses a wide-angle lens to turn marble columns to rubber. There are a few more conventional pictures in this selection, but Winterbottom’s most striking work skews postcard photography in novel directions.
Another digital holdout, Iwan Bagus, made the original images in “Cryos” on Kodak slide film. But that was just the beginning of an unusual process. The artist then froze individual frames in ice and photographed them again through the near-transparent material. Boosting the project’s already considerable metaphorical content, the ice-cube photos are self-portraits: close-ups of Bagus’s face, neck, feet and other parts (including a few generally kept private).
Kodak went bankrupt while he was preparing this suite, Bagus notes, but the preservation of film photography is far from his only theme. The Studio Gallery show also suggests the deterioration of memory and technology — and, of course, the body itself. The ice has small creases and bubbles, flaws that evoke singer Leonard Cohen’s lines: “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” This small exhibition can be seen in a flash, but its implications develop more slowly.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Gute Aussichten: Young German Photography 2011/2012
on view through April 27 at the Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW. Call 202-289-1200 or visit www.goethe.de/washington.
Pete McCutchen: Tracks
on view through April 1 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. Call 202-347-2787 or visit www.touchstonegallery.com.
Photographs on view through March 28 at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Call 202-549-4172 or visit www.hillcenterdc.org.
Iwan Bagus: Cryos
on view through March 24 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. Call 202-232-8734 or visit www.studiogallerydc.com.