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FotoWeek DC: Raul Flores captures the real of reality in Buenos Aires images

By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; C10

One day in 2007, in Buenos Aires, nothing happened. It was ugly.

That is the gist of Raúl Flores's contribution to a project called "The Next Instant," showing at the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States as part of FotoWeek DC, Washington's third annual celebration of the photographic arts.

Curators Fabián Goncalves and Marcelo de la Fuente asked eight leading Argentine photographers to capture the feel of a day in their capital city.

Flores, a leading local artist, responded by avoiding the striking scenes or telling moments that some of his colleagues went for. Flores looked for more hidden corners of existence. All his photos peer under beds and present whatever they find there as directly as they can.

This is what real reality really looks like. It doesn't catch the eye or tease the mind. It just sits there, unseen, neglected, like a dust bunny or a long-lost sock. The vast majority of moments in our lives are undecisive, and that's what Flores captures. Most of our places are ugly, or at least entirely plain. Which is why Flores's pictures choose to be the same.

Or not exactly, not perfectly ugly. In each of his six pictures, some tiny detail attracts attention to itself as special, artful. A patch of cheap blue carpet, out of focus in the foreground of one shot, could, in some other context, look like a patch from Monet. In the untitled photo we're looking at here, the strangely shiny floor seems to beckon the eye. The soft sheen running down the middle leg of the bed has a certain optical charm. Even the standard blue-and-white floral pattern glimpsed on the mattress's bottom evokes high-end versions of itself out of Delft china and silk gowns.

It's almost as though, by giving us so very little to look at, Flores makes us more attuned to what's out there to see.

The Next Instant: Buenos Aires Day and Night -- Contemporary Photography From Argentina

Through Tuesday in the Terrace Level Gallery of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, 1889 F St., open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Call 202-458-6016

or visit http://www.museum.oas.org.

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