Arts Desk

Reviewed: “Lost Worlds: Ruins of the Americas”

Arthur Drooker’s photographic documentary project, Lost Worlds, brought him to 33 ruins in 15 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, some of them famous (Peru’s Macchu Pichu, Guatemala’s Tikal) and some decidedly less so. As an exhibit at the Art Museum of the Americas illustrates, not all of the sites he visited ended up being equally stimulating visually, but Drooker’s success rate was still pretty high. Using a digital infrared camera, Drooker lovingly captured tumbledown stone facades, staircases, pyramids and agricultural terraces, as well as thick jungle environs and the obligatory human-sacrifice ball court.  Two images are particularly stunning. One (below) is of San Nicolas de Bari in the Dominican Republic—the first hospital in the new world, where Drooker momentarily brings to life a hurricane-damaged shell by capturing a rising frenzy of birds. The other (above) is the San Ignacio mission in Argentina, where Drooker combines rigid symmetry with infrared imaging’s ghostly haze and an eerily flat perspective that smartly pairs the mottled textures of stonework with a cloud-pocked sky in the background. Not to be overlooked are the concise yet illuminating captions, which explain how U.S. soldiers permanently scarred a priceless artifact in Haiti and how a Peruvian settlement called Chan Chan devolved from the largest pre-Hispanic city in South America to the abandoned collection of mud walls it is today.

The exhibition is on view 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday to Feb. 24, 2012 at the Art Museum of the Americas/OAS F Street Gallery, 1889 F St. NW. (202) 458-6016

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