By Mark Jenkins
Sunday, February 16, 2014
When winds and tides send the Adriatic into Venice, the canal--laced city’s most famous plazas become ponds, and pedestrians stride though several inches of water. That phenomenon is evoked by “Venice,” Chris Anthony’s sequence of large--
format photographs at Randall Scott Projects. But in fact the Swedish--born artist made the images at Venice Beach, in bone--dry Southern California.
The square images are dominated by sea and sky, in tones that range from light gray to near--white. (There’s an ocean--blue one in the series, but it’s not on display here.) At the bottom is a human figure or two, engaged in a simple activity: sweeping, skiing, bicycling, sitting on a suitcase. Some of the people are dressed in red, offering a note of color that contrasts with the whiteout conditions.
The implications are plentiful: human life’s beginnings in the oceans, rising sea levels attributed to global climate change, the essential aloneness of every person in a vast, indifferent universe. But the pictures also continue the plan of Anthony’s previous work, in which actors pose with props in the midst of an unexplained scene. All the world’s a stage, so the photographer has taken this idea outdoors, where water and sky become a theatrical backdrop. The world overwhelms the small figures, and yet it’s the person who gives the moment meaning.
The Gallery at Vivid Solutions has been outfitted with a few comfy touches for Washington photographer Laila Abdul--Hadi Jadallah’s show: pillows and an overhead light fixture, all decorated with Arab motifs. But as its title suggests, “Adrift” is not an evocation of home. It’s an attempt to evoke rootlessness with images of specific places.
Jadallah is of Palestinian descent but has spent most of her life in the United States. The photos in this selection, all untitled, are in--camera multiple exposures made in Morocco (where the artist’s father lives) and Turkey in 2010 or 2013. A few depict villages as ghostly jumbles of boxy houses and satellite TV dishes. Most feature craggy ridge lines and complicated skies, thick with clouds and sometimes dyed red or purple by dawns or sunsets. The pictures are horizontal, as landscapes customarily are.
Overlapping several exposures often has the effect of fracturing the line between heaven and earth. The effect can be disorienting, even ominous. Yet the ground remains solid, the sky constant, if mutable. Only the eye is adrift, a metaphor that can be read in various ways.
The title of Peter Karp’s Studio Gallery show, “Color This Time,” apparently refers to the lack of the black--and--white images for which the local photographer is known. But color is also the principal thing that links these pictures, which range from faraway street scenes to studies made in Karp’s D.C. studio of single objects against a white backdrop.
The urban shots include ones from Germany, Italy and Mexico. There’s also a vignette of clay jugs and a bicycle--wheeled cart whose vivid reds and greens exclaim “India!” (It’s Bangalore.) Even within this group, Karp varies his approach. In Dresden, he gazes at the street from inside a window whose glass distorts the picture into accidental impressionism; in Florence, he made the only one of these pictures that features a person, a woman whose gestures happen to mimic those of a figure in the painting behind her. It may document a spontaneous moment, but it looks stagey.
Karp’s interest in the worn, aged textures of Old World facades extends to the rusted, battered surfaces of a humble can he photographed in his studio. That photo is part of a conceptual pair with an image of a redheaded bird corpse, also posed on a white sheet. The latter picture recalls Colby Caldwell’s much larger ones on the same theme, which draw power from being part of a unified series. “Color This Time” is less cohesive, but it includes several visual ideas worthy of further exploration.
Also a world traveler, the Girl From Nowhere offers recent glimpses of France, Romania and Macedonia ---- and the District ---- in “Urban Eyes,” at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. The photographer (who identifies herself as French American, and whose given name is Camille Clifton) shares Karp’s affinity for weathered exteriors, exemplified by an oxidizing green metal gate in Bucharest. But she also likes signs, whether official or ad hoc, and graffiti, offhand or elaborate.
Indeed, “Urban Eyes” includes not only pictures of scrawls on well--worn doors and walls but also paint atop paint. In Marseille, the Girl found an outdoor painting of a woman to which someone else, it seems, had added red drips from her eyes. But the most striking picture shows an embellishment that was probably inadvertent: yellow paint splashed on Paris pavement. Vivid and random, it’s the sort of serendipitous image that draws some people, and more than a few photographers, to city streets.