For nine years, Frank Van Riper has curated Photoworks’ annual surveys of recent documentary photography. “Mirror to the World 2017” is the last installment to be selected by Van Riper, a former photography columnist for The Washington Post, and it’s ambitious and far-reaching.
Three of the five sets of images document journeys. Valerie Makepeace prowled the American Southwest with an eye for the battered, rusted and abandoned. Motels, autos and roadside cafes decay; the desert endures. Christine Pearl’s black-and-white images document a trip along rural thoroughfares from Maine to Missouri. These small glimpses have an intimate feel. There’s also a series about Civita di Bagnoregio, an Italian mountain town built on now-crumbling limestone. This is the work of seven people who went to Umbria for a workshop run by Van Riper and Judith Goodman, his wife and fellow photographer. With its vertiginous angles, picturesque buildings and view-framing archways, the precarious hamlet is almost too photogenic a subject.
The most evocative essay is Fred Zafran’s “A Stranger in My Home,” set in and around a remote house cloaked by foliage. Within and without appear to merge in a shot of leaves that nearly blend into a rug’s pattern, and human figures seem no more tangible than the shadows they cast. This is a realm of concealment and isolation, with hints of possible transformation.
The most urban and obviously local series is by Darrow Montgomery, who has worked for Washington City Paper for three decades. (For the record, Montgomery and I were colleagues for much of that time.) These square iPhone pictures, billed as “an accidental archive” of Washington, often employ muted color and narrow depth of field, making them almost as dreamlike as Zafran’s photos. But they’re grounded by familiar visual elements — we can thank Metro master architect Harry Weese for many of them — and moments of wit. In one wry vignette, a U.S. Park Police officer uses a chess table to mount his horse, proving that the game of kings has practical applications for the modern-day knight.
Mirror to the World 2017 On view through May 14 at Photoworks, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-2274. glenechophotoworks.org.
Like Darrow Montgomery, Pedro Correa is a street photographer, but he doesn’t focus on a particular place. The pictures from his “Urban Impressions” series, at Artist’s Proof, depict multiple cities on several continents. A Madrid-born Brussels resident who trained as a painter, Correa hops from London to Tokyo to Paris. Wherever he goes, it seems, he avoids the eyes of the people he observes. He’s a poet of urban isolation, or at least non-connection.
Correa often shoots through mist, fogged and streaky glass, or from several stories up, gazing straight down. The results include a vivid snowscape in which footprints and tire tracks reveal a black surface beneath the white powder, and a red umbrella is the only note of color.
With their generic locations and blurred and hidden faces, Correa’s photos appear to seek universal qualities of city life. Yet they often have discreet local character. Tokyo’s concrete is set off by bamboo, a cogent summary of the city’s look, and a British Rail sign identifies one scene as London. Correa’s subjects may be elusive, but they’re not entirely lost.
Also on display are pictures from the artist’s “Home of Art” series, made in museums. The camera looks at guards as they look at visitors who are looking at art. These photos, too, depict detachment, but in a less open environment. Although both series are impromptu, the street scenes convey more serendipity.
Pedro Correa On view through May 15 at Artist’s Proof, 1533 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-803-2782. aproof.net.
At first glance, Jowita Wyszomirska’s painting-drawings appear to be stormy abstractions in black and white, with touches of icy blue and earthy pink. So why do most of their titles include precise times and dates, as well as specific geographical information?
The answer is that the imagery in “Vanishing Point,” Wyszomirska’s show at Gallery Neptune & Brown, is derived from NASA satellite photos. Genuine squalls activate the flurries of black ink and paint, and actual melting glaciers inspire the watery blues. The Polish-born Baltimore artist is not a realist, but the phenomena she depicts are as certifiable as record-high temperatures and rising sea levels.
The centerpiece is an installation, 11 feet high and 17 feet wide, that simultaneously depicts two meteorological moments: one in the Yukon and the other above the Chesapeake Bay. Five large sheets of paper, marked in black and hung in a staggered arrangement, are complemented by black thread and pieces of burned felt. The 3-D elements are suspended in air, echoing the gestures made with paint and ink and enveloping the viewer in Wyszomirska’s vision. The vortex beckons, and in the long term, it might even be irresistible.
Jowita Wyszomirska: Vanishing Point On view through May 13 at Gallery Neptune & Brown, 1530 14th St. NW. 202-986-1200. galleryneptunebrown.com.
Think of Hamiltonian Gallery as a suburban ranch house that has lost everything but its recreation room. That space, billed as “Existential Wreck Room,” is full of games and toys. Nancy Daly reworks familiar ones such as “Life” and “Risk,” and also offers a series of visual puns packed with retro pop-culture references.
These are easier to read than Kyle Bauer’s sculptures, which look like children’s toys cross-fertilized with American postwar domestic architecture. The Baltimore sculptor contrasts cheap materials with elegant ones, and plays unfinished wood against bright, glossy surfaces. Among Bauer’s inspirations are fishing lures, but his creations also suggest pieces from lawn games for which no one quite knows the rules.
Daly’s work is equally playful, if more up-to-date. The D.C. artist remakes “Chutes and Ladders” for the cellphone universe, and offers a “Settlers of D.C.” gentrification game whose honeycomb pattern recalls Metro’s station vaults. These diversions are actually playable, as Daly will demonstrate at a game night May 11 at 7 p.m.
Existential Wreck Room: Nancy Daly & Kyle Bauer On view through May 13 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101. 202-332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com.