"Photography from Berlin" is a portrait--by implication only -- of that city. Its wide imperial avenues, its linden trees and ruins are almost never seen in the photographs now on view at the Jones Troyer Gallery, 1614 20th St. NW. But together they portray the convictions and resentments of that surrounded town.
One does not see the Wall. But throughout the exhibition, one feels its implosions. Between the city's many Greens and its aging grandmothers a generation is missing. We sense its absence here. This Berlin, though a western town, is a city of the left, suspicious of material wealth and wary of its past.
Two American photographers, Lewis Baltz and Washington's John Gossage, organized this show. The eight artists they selected all owe some allegiance to the Werkstatt fu r Photographie der VHS Kreuzberg and to Michael Schmidt, its founder. Something of the '60s, something fiery, unsmiling, breathes within his pictures, and in many others here. They manage to look modern yet out of touch with time.
In Wilmar Koening's portraits, which suggest August Sander's famous surveys of his countrymen, the artist lets us see every eyelash, every pore. Ulrich Go rlich's meditative 30-photo grids -- of the skies above Dachau and of the weeds and garbage underfoot where Gestapo Headquarters once stood -- help exorcise old ghosts. Friedhelm Denkeler's ambiguous, often disturbing images frequently mix bits of myth with expressionist jitterings -- an oil drum becomes a beast prepared for sacrifice, a young girl's nail file suggests a knight's glowing sword. Showing two hands on a table, he conjures both the unions and apartness of romance. Uschi Blume portrays the punk life of the city. Klaus-Peter Voutta's nudes are completely free of coyness. Dieter Binder's detailed farmscapes suggest Berlin's claustrophobia.
There is one photograph by Schmidt here, a formally exquisite shot of a corner of a table, that is enough to justify a visit to this handsome, telling show. It closes Saturday. Works by Italo Scanga
Italo Scanga, one of the few artists participating in both the Museum of Modern Art's "Primitivism" exhibition and the Hirshhorn's "Content" show, first exhibited at Henri's, 21st and P Streets NW., 14 years ago. He is now showing there again. He is part Catholic and part shaman. In his charcoal drawings, as in his assemblages, the skulls of goats and human beings, and spotted horses, sperm, buffalo and bombs, dance mysteriously together, casting spells the viewer never fully understands. "Egyptian Woman with Fish and two Singing Heads" is the sort of title he chooses for his drawings. He sometimes seizes bits of trees -- in whose trunks and splaying branches he discovers human forms. "Mature Archimides" is the name of one such sculpture. Its title calls to mind "Young Archimedes," the E.M. Forster story of a peasant boy who, before dying young, discovers for himself the Pythagorean theorem. Scanga's skinny figure -- stalking among triangles -- is perhaps a portrait of that spirit that detects number and perfection in the mess of growing things. "Remember This Time," another Scanga sculpture, warns mankind of the bomb. The artist, always formally inventive, is a kind of seer. His show runs through October. Oils by Howard Carr
Howard Carr paints in Washington, but one might guess from his oils -- now at the Govinda Gallery, 1227 34th St. NW. -- that his heart resides in Paris, or at least at the Phillips, where so many finely colored, sweet French pictures hang. Carr often paints the good life -- a ride in a hot-air balloon, croquet on the lawn, sunlight in the garden, yummy things to eat. Chefs confer in the kitchen. Orange mussels in black shells are arranged on a plate. A busy cook supplied with the yellowest of lemons is whisking mayonnaise. Carr's paintings, like late Braques, are rarely wholly literal. He has looked, too, at Matisse. His paintings do not overwhelm. A nice easiness hovers round the best of them. They sometimes look unfinished, but they never appear forced. They will remain on view through Oct. 28.