Humans may be missing from “Absence/Presence,” a photo exhibition at George Washington University’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, but their influence isn’t in question. Surely, people built the bowling alley in Andrew Moore’s stark yet colorful picture, as well as the highway bridge in Dan Kessmann’s austere landscape. Human handiwork remains visible even in things and places their makers have abandoned, as seen in Lee Saloutos’s moody interiors of disused prison cells, William Christenberry’s view of an overgrown Alabama building and Pablo Maurer’s series of portraits of battered streetcars in a forested salvage yard.
Numerous affinities connect the 14 photographers, most of them are local, although just one link is direct: E. Brady Robinson portrays Christenberry’s office. Architectural motifs, including portals and arches, also appear in Lisa Tyson Ennis’s and Trine Sondergaard’s work, as they do in Saloutos’s. Cynthia Connolly and Frank Gohlke depict structures that punctuate the sky, although hers is a sign whose outlined letters almost float in air, while his is a grain elevator, heavier and more solidly rooted.
If most of the pictures could be termed documentary, qualities of light and space are often more significant than the literal subject.
Only Bridget Sue Lambert’s offering is clearly staged, although viewers unfamiliar with her work may look twice before realizing that the messy bedroom is actually in a dollhouse. The other participant who occupies a category of her own is Nancy Breslin, who uses a pinhole camera. Since it requires a long exposure, Breslin doesn’t have to clear a room to render it empty; anyone who ambles past leaves just a ghostly trail. In her pictures, even the present are absent.
Absence/Presence: Selected Contemporary Photography On view through Nov. 20 at George Washington University Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, 805 21st St. NW, Second Floor. 202-994-1525. www.gwu.edu/~bradyart.
From a distance, the vivid hues and repeated patterns of Erin Curtis’s artwork recall the 1960s vogue for pop and op. But the most significant line on the D.C. artist’s résumé may be her 2009 Fulbright scholarship in Jaipur, India. The paint-and-fabric pieces in Curtis’s “Diamond Blind,” at Flashpoint Gallery, suggest Asian textiles and embroidery, as well as such traditional decorative techniques as batik. Rather than craft saris and sarongs, however, the artist has constructed a demimonde. She has daubed colorful motifs on one of the gallery’s walls and overlaid them with paintings and banners that hang both parallel and perpendicular to the surface. The installation is a sort of bazaar, but the products on offer are mood, movement and sensation.
The show also includes individual works, which give a better sense of Curtis’s specific methods. Her work is multilayered, with rough diamonds cut regularly — but not too regularly — into the canvas to show underlying colors and forms. The imagery is purely abstract, although pictures such as the mirrorlike “Double Vision” contrast soft shapes and methodical layouts in a manner akin to that of painters who dissect realism. Aggressively handmade yet sophisticated in effect, Curtis’s mixed-media pieces shimmer and pulse.
Erin Curtis: Diamond Blind On view through Nov. 21 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. www.culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
In a neat complement to “Diamond Blind,” Studio Gallery is showing Leena Jayaswal’s photographic array of hundreds of sari fabrics, arranged into a grid and back lighted. The study is a tribute to an ancestral culture of a woman who notes that she grew up in jeans and T-shirts and has rarely worn traditional Indian garb. Jayaswal is one of nine contributors to “Photographers @ Work,” curated by Iwan Bagus and Steven Marks, which combines formal experimentation with autobiographical musing.
Rania Razek memorializes her travels by shooting through fogged airplane windows, yielding near-abstract ovals of color and form. Page Carr reduced the Virginia building where she teaches to a montage of its many beseeching signs. In Shaun Schroth’s triptych, he evaporates from a purple-tinted night scene, vanishing in tribute to a beloved kind of film that’s almost disappeared. Posing on a beach, Bagus uses five chairs or five umbrellas to symbolize the sisters who live far away in Indonesia. As he runs across the sand in one epic tableaux, the photographer seems almost ready to leap across the Pacific.
Also at Studio, Monica Perez-Roulet’s “Looking at the Future” contrasts precise realism and painterly details, sometimes set off by a bold, single-color backdrop. The bright orange setting of “Homeless” gives the portrait of a curled-up solitary man the directness of a poster. Other images, including the title work, are framed by areas of mottled metallic leaf. The most striking example of this tactic is “Water the Roots,” a meticulous picture of a tree enclosed by gold-green copper leaf. If the background is far from naturalistic, it does appear suitably organic.
Photographers @ Work and Monica Perez-Roulet: Looking Toward the Future On view through Nov. 14 and 21, respectively, at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. 202-232-8734. www.studiogallerydc.com.
A graphic designer who lived in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980, a moment both opportune and perilous, Jerzy Janiszewski will be long remembered for designing the Solidarity logo. He fled Poland two years later and for decades has lived in Spain. He continues to do commercial work, but he also makes abstract collages of found objects. These are the focus of “Kontinuum,” the artist’s second show at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art.
Whatever Poland’s Communist regime once thought of him, Janiszewski is no anarchist. He positions near-identical items in neat rows, relying on chance deviations — such as the way tiny strings hang from small tags — to provide visual interest. The works in this selection are mostly monochromatic, or nearly so, and include several black-on-black compositions. Bits of paper nudge or overlap each other, creating steady rhythms. The titles refer to various phenomena, but the most apt tag is “Sound Cloud.” Janiszewski arranges little riffs into a sort of minimalist visual music.
Kontinuum: New Work by Poland’s Jerzy Janiszewski On view through Nov. 22 at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW. 202-638-3612. www.charleskrausereporting.com.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
An earlier version of this column misidentified photographer Shaun Schroth as Shawn Schrath. This version has been corrected.