Modernist architecture renders cities anonymous and interchangeable, which may be why Alan Schaller’s Leica Store DC show is titled simply “Metropolis.” The photographer is based in London, and about half the pictures in this selection were made there. Don’t look for Victorian landmarks, though. Given the sites Schaller prefers, viewers will probably need to consult the photos’ titles to distinguish “Barbican” (in his hometown) from “Potsdamer Platz” (in Berlin).
It’s not just the International Style architecture that knits Schaller’s locations together. It’s also his individual style of black-heavy black-and-white imagery, which stresses shadows, angles and oblique perspectives. The camera frequently points upward, capturing people on the street as observed from recessed vantage points. Many of the compositions are slashed by diagonals, sometimes physical structures but often shafts of light. All the urban world’s a stage set, and Schaller’s players are often seen in a narrowly trained spotlight.
The photographer is not interested only in visual drama, although these photos certainly have that. In his statement, Schaller notes that his goal is to illustrate “the way we are getting lost in the online world and the big-city life.”
Thus, his pictures often feature a tightly framed lone figure or several people in a bustling place who all appear detached from one another. A single blank face glimpsed through a train window exemplifies urban isolation in a busy environment in “London Underground” and “New York Subway,” which are hung next to each other. In cities around the developed world, Schaller finds subjects with much in common — including the sensation of having nothing in common.
Alan Schaller: Metropolis Through May 14 at Leica Store DC, 977 F St. NW.
The alienating influence of the Internet is not conspicuous in Alan Schaller’s work, but it is in Kaitlin Jencso’s. The photographs in her Hamiltonian Gallery show, “Looking Glass,” show people in the act of staring at their mobile phones. Captured in bars, clubs and other public locations in Washington and Miami, Jencso’s subjects are mesmerized by what she calls their “looking glasses” — taking inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
The Washington photographer shoots in color, but she shares Schaller’s interest in deep shadows punctuated by narrow swaths of intense light. Camera flashes, pinpoint illumination, hanging tinsel, a glittery night, pink glow behind glass doors and mirrored reflections on a red bar are among the show’s vivid highlights. Jencso also shoots an empty bus from outside, which has an effect similar to that of “Metropolis’s” transit vignettes.
While Schaller’s people seem heedless of their place in the world, Jencso’s appear highly self-aware. As they commune with their devices, these phone-heads are always ready for their close-ups. In Jencso’s pictures, the online realm can draw people down the rabbit hole, but also inspire them to pose and strut in plain sight.
Also at Hamiltonian, Istanbul-bred Baltimorean Sera Boeno is showing a sculptural installation flanked by pieces of her intricately filigreed bronze jewelry. Both the sculpture and jewelry were designed for performances that comment on the status of women in Turkish society.
The dominant object in “Kelimeler Kiyafetsiz (Words Naked/Are Not Enough)” is an altar modeled on a much larger and more ornate Hellenistic one excavated in Turkey in the late 19th century. (It was sent to Berlin, where it remains in the Pergamon Museum, a storehouse of fabulous looted treasures.) Boeno has covered her simulation of the ancient artifact with recent comments about women from the Turkish mass media.
Kaitlin Jencso: Looking Glass and Sera Boeno: Kelimeler Kiyafetsiz (Words Naked/Are Not Enough) Through May 11 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW.
The circle is eternal in Siri Berg’s art, but not always unbroken. The Stockholm-born American abstractionist’s “Statements,” at the House of Sweden, includes several paintings in which full circles adjoin partial ones. Even when incomplete, Berg’s rounded forms are hard-edge and crisply defined. The 97-year-old artist, a New Yorker since 1940, arranges every detail precisely.
Berg taught color theory for decades at Parsons School of Design. Aside from a few pieces that navigate the entire color wheel, she tends to work in black, gray and white or in red, orange and yellow. Occasionally, the two schemes come together, as in an elegant exercise that floats a gray circle inside a larger peach one that in turn bobs on a gray background. The contrast is hushed yet effective.
In the smaller of the two galleries in the House of Sweden, “Statements” displays Berg’s found-object pieces, which don’t always transform their materials. Arranging some 30 silvery CDs in neat rows does not make their roundness any more compelling. Nearly as minimal but more amusing is “Mouseballs,” a lineup of six tracking balls from dissected computer mice; they’re subtly different in shades of gray and — like a lot of Berg’s 3-D assemblages — cast subtly changing shadows. In artworks of exceptional tidiness, even the smallest sense of play is welcome.
Siri Berg: Statements Through May 12 at the House of Sweden, 2900 K St. NW.
In a show marking a 25-year affiliation with Wohlfarth Galleries, Angela White offers timeless landscape paintings, often depicting places where land meets water. But “Convergence” also refers to White’s use of sigils — symbols that, the local artist says in her statement, “convey an intention.”
White employs a system devised by local cyberculture writer Gareth Branwyn to generate sigils, which are used either as embellishments to the landscapes or as the principal elements in patterned abstractions. The representational pictures are more compelling, especially when White contrasts muted land-and-sea hues with areas embossed with gold and silver leaf.
Gold lustrously evokes sunlight in bands across the sky, while underlying silver glimmers to suggest the metallic crust beneath earth and ocean. White seeks to reveal the obscure, whether mystical or tectonic.
Angela White: Convergence Through May 11 at Wohlfarth Galleries, 3418 Ninth St. NE.