The selection also includes a few shots of Japanese dollhouse interiors; a cherry-blossom viewing scene in Central Park; and a looking-out-the-window shot of an American’s rustic Japanese dwelling, cluttered with empty bottles, whose vista is of nearby Mount Fuji. Shirai positions her camera impeccably in tight quarters, and — because she uses a 10-second timer — must move quickly to get into the frame when she’s part of the picture. In “Cleaning,” the artist teeters on the kitchen counter, wearing a gray T-shirt and lacy black underpants; the playful eroticism is almost upstaged by the sheer implausibility of Shirai’s having leapt into that place before the shutter snapped. Some of the images are posed more formally than others, but all reflect the self-consciousness of someone whose sense of home will always be divided.
The wild and the man-made coexist — digitally — in Karen Knorr’s recent photographs. The London-based American artist makes glowing, long-exposure images of the interiors of grand Indian buildings, then inserts her photographs of animals — mostly birds, monkeys and great cats. The result is the “India Song” series, titled after the Marguerite Duras novel and currently on display at Adamson Gallery.
The two components are assembled artfully, with painstaking attention to scale, shadows and reflections. And yet they don’t always persuade, especially when Knorr clusters several species together. “Conqueror of the World, Podar Haveli, Nawalgarh” places a baby elephant, with a monkey sitting on its back, in the center of an ornate chamber. The picture is seamless, yet still seems Photoshopped.
It’s hard to compete with a tiger, but in “The Survivors, Deogarh Palace, Deogarh” the regal cat is upstaged by the sheer luminosity of the scene, which is illuminated partially by stained-glass windows. Indeed, the architecture in these photos is so opulent, and so beautifully rendered, that at first the animals don’t seem entirely necessary.
A second glance, however, reveals that the buildings’s decorative details are mostly drawn from nature. Even the Islamic structures, for which portrayals of people and animals are forbidden, include vine and flower motifs among the geometric patterns. Images of trees and tigers adorn many of these structures, which range from the palatial Taj Mahal to the modest Paradesi Synagogue. By interjecting animals into these sites, Knorr reveals that they were always there.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Independence in the Age of Decadence; Found Images
on view through Oct. 20 at Civilian Art Projects, 1019 Seventh St. NW; 202-607-3804; www.civilianartprojects.com.
Home & Home
on view through Oct. 27 at Heiner Contemporary, 1675 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-338-0072; www.heinercontemporary.com.
on view through Oct. 27 at Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St. NW; 202-232-0707; www.adamsongallery.com.