Michael Borek at Embassy of the Czech Republic Wednesday, July 30

It’s been more than a quarter century by now, but my recollection of reading Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis in my freshman-year college European lit class remains fresh. Even for a cocky college kid, reading about Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect was unnerving. There’s nothing quite as creepy as Kafka’s famous character in Michael Borek’s photography exhibit at the Czech Embassy, which commemorates the 90th anniversary of Kafka’s death. Still, many of the works exude an uneasy vibe. One image features the shadow of an older man who’s sandwiched between a translucent window dripping with water and a wall covered with brown stains. Another lays bare the scarred surface of a wall where a metal silhouette had once been affixed; it now reveals several drilled holes that suggest bullet wounds (shown). Borek’s most appealing work comes when he locates a bit of whimsy in an otherwise sterile context. One photograph finds what appears to be a small bit of rococo grillwork casting a shadow on a stretched sheet, while another reveals the whitewashed surface of a building arranged in a pleasing geometry that suggests the planar shapes of Charles Sheeler. Like Kafka’s novels, these works inspire thought long after you’ve stopped examining them. The exhibition is on view to July 31 at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW. Free. (202) 274-9100. mzv.cz/washington.

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