The joys and hazards of photographic portraiture are clearly visible at Govinda Gallery, 1227 34th St. NW, where Michael Halsband has two dozen images on display through June 5.
Halsband is probably best known for work that has appeared on record jackets for artists like Garland Jeffries and Ricky Lee ("What's My") Jones and the dadaist German singer Klaus Nomi. It's in this type of dead-on, black-and-white, face-dominant composition that he has achieved a real sense ofpersonal style. His images of David Byrne (of the band Talking Heads), Larry Rivers and Andy Warhol are all uniformm of mind and spirit: There's a sense of direct confrontation here that seems so lacking in most contemporary portrait work. Halsband isn't afraid to force the viewer to confront his subjects, even if their faces aren't always visible, as in a spectatcular 48-by-60-inch print of Nob and Non, a Los Angeles graphics team.
The photographer stumbles, however, when he literally sidesteps this face-to-face dynamic he's worked out so well and starts to shoot subjects from the side and in color. Consider his portraits of Rolling Stone Keith Richards: in black and white, leaning over a pool table, a menacing sense of the guitarist's personality cuts right through; the color shots are so creamy that they obliterate most of Richards' gritty texture. And Halsband has made the classic error of including too many images of one subject--specifically Richards--in his show, as if to prove he could get the guy to pose.
The lesson in this impressive if somewhat undisciplined show may be that the approach to the work revealed in the imagery on the gallery walls says much more about Michael Halsband than infinite access to the Rolling Stones.