The Adamson Gallery exhibit “Gordon Parks: An American Lens” is nominally a retrospective, and it does a solid job of hitting the high points of the famed photographer’s long career with the Farm Security Administration and Life magazine—his iconic variation on “American Gothic,” a portrait of D.C. custodian Ella Watson with a broom and mop in front of an oversized flag; and an image from Parks’ visceral series on teenaged Harlem gang leader Red Jackson. But the emotional core of the exhibit is Parks’ 1956 series on segregation in Mobile, Ala., much of which languished in archival obscurity for more than half a century. Parks’ images of the era’s routine discrimination and deprivation are no-nonsense—a marquee advertising “colored lots” for sale; an unpainted shack served by a rickety water spout; a black girl looking through the window of a clothing store that has only lily-white mannequins—and in some cases seem a tad contrived. But this serves to lay bare the ridiculousness of Jim Crow, as seen in a photo of the windows of the soft-serve joint where the same employee serves both races, in windows just inches apart.
The show is on view Tuesdays–Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m., to May 31, at Adamson Gallery, 1515 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. Free. (202) 232-0707. adamsongallery.org.