Naked Fools and Wild Fur at Watergate
Naked Fools/Wild Fur makes an excellent claim for the most eccentric photography exhibit of 2009. The show, featuring images by Washingtonian Alexander Vasiljev, is a collection of three series, each odder than the last. Comparatively tame is a group of eight portraits of wild animals (sloth, meerkat, tiger) captured in extreme close-up and against a blank, Avedonian background. A step beyond is “Naked Fools,” a series of portraits of largely naked individuals in staged settings, some of which suggest Borat’s producer, Azamat Bagatov, in the movie’s naked wrestling scene. But the oddest series harnesses Vasiljev’s experience both as a chronicler of the rainforest and his day job as principal makeup artist for the Washington National Opera: finely mannered portraits of men made up with body paint to resemble a lemur, an okapi, an ocelot and several other animals. Striking as they are, I’d stick with the real wild species, whose eyes flare with life only suggested by the humans in face paint.