Ever since the equipment became reasonably portable, photographers have traveled the globe to document places and events that are, at least to some viewers, remote. Fabian Rook, whose work is included in “Gute Aussichten: New German Photography 2012/2013,” has harsh news for such photogs: “It simply no longer works like this,” he writes in the show’s catalog.
Rook instead relies on Google Street View to provide images of places he’s never photographed. He manipulates the pictures, sometimes to transform views of a region into ones that seem to be somewhere else entirely. His vignettes of a turbulent Middle East are based on images of other places, recast with the addition of black smoke, a mosque or a corpse lying on a street continents away from where it fell.
Rook doesn’t define the entire aesthetic of the ninth annual “Gute Aussichten” survey, now on display at the Goethe-Institut. Indeed, two of his cohorts seem to heartily disagree. Svetlana Mychkine photographs Russian orphanages and their young residents, making color pictures that are shadowy and intimate. Henning Bode’s black-and-white images of the Mississippi Delta explicitly recall Depression-era photos of the American South, made when traveling somewhere with a camera (and actual film) was only way to show what was out there. Bode’s inspiration is the Delta blues, still vital if not as up-to-date as dubstep or Duck Duck Go.
Of the exhibition’s other participants, most are closer to Rook than Bode. Susann Dietrich offers a grid of 30 photos of the same object, a crystal that refracts light differently in each shot. Nicolai Rapp photographs “dead white men’s clothes,” tightly bundled in bales and looking like some sort of Christo project, although in fact these stark images are documentary: They depict castoff European apparel that’s been packaged for transport to poorer regions. Both photographers use blank backgrounds to emphasize the staginess of their work.
Saskia Gronenberg depicts the real world, but only a small corner of it: the land of office plants, which in her black-and-white photos seem to be returning white-collar clearings to the state of primeval forest. Jakob Weber’s large color pictures also show everyday scenes of tidy, prosperous Germany, but they’re juxtaposed with small black-and-white shots made at roughly the same time in contrasting places: war-ravaged Bosnia, Sumatra during the 2004 tsunami, Manhattan as the World Trade Center burned. Weber gets the news shots from photo agencies, suggesting that for him, like Rook, it’s choosing rather than making the image that matters.
On view through April 12 at the Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St. NW; 202-289-1200; www.goethe.de/washington
Benjamin Rasmussen is one of those globe-traveling photographers, but every picture in his current show, “Home,” is personal. That’s possible because of his complicated life story. His father is from the Faroe Islands, and his mother from the United States; he grew up in the Philippines, but married a woman from Wyoming. All those places are depicted, along with Italy, in his show at the current but temporary location of the Gallery at Vivid Solutions.
Rasmussen has collected these photos into a book, also titled “Home,” that’s been dissected and spread across one wall of the space. Ten of his large-format color photos show a concern for form, but also themes. A view of rural Wyoming layers horizontal elements: a road, a fence, a line of trees and the tops of mesas. Neighboring shots from the Philippines and the Faroes show nature unleashed or controlled: In the first, an abandoned house is claimed by the jungle, while in the second a man trims his home’s grass roof. From snowy Wyoming to a white-sand Faroes beach, Rasmussen’s eye links disparate locales, achieving his goal of getting “my different worlds to interact with and know each other.”
On view through April 12 at the Gallery at Vivid Solutions, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-365-8392, www.vividsolutionsdc.com
There’s relatively little that’s monumental, but much that’s intriguing, in “Sculpture Now 2013,” a wide-ranging show of work by members of the Washington Sculpture Group. The 27-artist selection at Honfleur Gallery, downstairs from the Rasmussen show, features such diverse materials as limestone, bamboo and plastic, and many smaller works that are wall-mounted rather than free-standing.
The piece visible from the street is Marcos Smyth’s “Stump,” in which copper sheets spiral from a chunk of driftwood. Such curling forms recur in other pieces, including Len Harris’s “Arabesque” (wood strips), Peter Wood’s “Think Ahead” (steel), Liz Lescault’s “FoliasePursed” (ceramic) and Joshua DeMonte’s “Arcade Coil” (an Escher-like architectural form produced by a 3D printer). There are works that have an industrial vibe, whether they’re battered and rusted, like Anne Bouie’s metal-and-wood “Testament #2,” or sleek and futuristic, like Chris Bathgate’s machined-aluminum, brass-bronze and stainless-steel “ML 622254434732323.” (Is that a launch code?)
Other pieces seem ancient, at least in inspiration. Paul Steinkoenig’s “Cobblestones” arrays wood slats around a large seal that must have ritual significance, while Jan Acton’s “Focal” is an altar-like stone monument of concentric arcs, open at the top. Its solidity offers a piquant contrast to Frederic Crist’s “Phoenix 2,” a series of rectangles, seemingly pressed together, that gives bronze an illusion of squishiness. Whether exalting their materials or subverting them, these sculptors challenge expectations.
On view through April 12 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE, 202-536-8994, www.honfleurgallery.com
Last summer, Randall Scott presented a group show that included Michael Bevilacqua’s black-and-silver paintings with references to Joy Division, the late-1970s post-punk band. The same motifs return in a few pieces in “Deciphering Scars,” Bevilacqua’s show at Scott’s new H street NE space. But the New York artist has some new inspirations, notably Grimes, the Canadian electro-pop performer whose scrawled name doesn’t quite fit onto one of these canvases. All that can be read is “grim,” which these paintings are not.
Although Bevilacqua’s works aren’t figurative, neither are they fully abstract. They incorporate text, recognizable forms and even the occasional art-history reference: “Malevich Has Left the Building” riffs on the Russian Suprematist’s heavy black forms. These paintings appear weathered, as if modeled on the frayed posters, battered facades and half-erased graffiti that line city streets. The artist still sometimes paints words on the canvas, but now he also incises them into the pigment, carving “heaven” or “dream lover” amid more random scratches. The rawness can be offset by bright colors, as in “A.M./after modernism,” with its fuchsia scribbles atop black and bold amber, or the pink-accented “Cypress,” which suggests a roughed-up Washington Color School painting. Bevilacqua’s style still draws from Joy Division’s adolescent gloom, but it’s taken a turn toward beauty.
On view through April 13 at Randall Scott Projects, 1326 H St. NE, 2nd Fl.; 202-417-4872; www.randallscottprojects.com