Arts Desk

Reviewed: More Photographs Than Bricks at George Washington University

Kara

Chuck Close's "Kara"

Using a mix of internationally known artists (including Chuck Close and Edward Burtynsky) and D.C.-area figures (Amy Lamb and Bruce McKaig), George Washington University’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery attempts to explore the boundaries of painting and photography–a worthwhile pursuit, even if it’s not exactly a new one. Not all of the exhibit’s 23 images hew closely to the topic, but those that do are aptly chosen: Yasumasa Morimura’s photographic attempt to mimic a Vermeer, Sean Scully’s photographic sojourn into color-field painting, and Martin d’Orgeval’s modern-day trompe l’oeil of shelves stocked with bric-a-brac.

The finest works are ones by Close, JeongMee Yoon, and Nancy Breslin. Close’s silhouette portrait of Kara Walker embraces his subject’s celebrated artistic style, while offering a bracing mix of unexpectedly detailed facial features with an enigmatic, almost watery backdrop. Yoon pairs images of a boy and a girl surrounded by an agglomeration of childhood toys and books, all color coded, blue for him and pink for her; the images call to mind the careful, somewhat creepy stage sets of Sandy Skoglund’s photographs “Radioactive Cats” and “Revenge.”

Finally, Breslin depicts an old-fashioned theater marquee that reads “Pleasure,” using the even more archaic technique of gum-bichromate on cyanotype. It’s a witty homage to Robert Cottingham’s celebrated photorealistic paintings of classic theater signs, pulling off the neat trick of offering a photograph that mimics painting mimicking photography.

The exhibit is on view 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday to April 30 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, 805 21st St., NW. Free. (202) 994-1525.

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