Arts Desk

Reviewed: Charlotte Dumas at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Charlotte Dumas, an Amsterdam- and New York-based photographer, is probably best known for her series documenting the remainingrescue dogs of 9/11. But that project is just one of several series in which Dumas turns the lens on animals, four of which are collectively on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

A 2005 series on wolves meditates on the animal’s paradoxes—they are at once loathed and revered, wild animals that are now able to survive due largely to the intervention of humans. Dumas’ beige-dominated images deftly capture an animal able to flash a pair of piercing eyes one moment yet look as cuddly as one of its canine cousins the next. A 2008 series on homeless dogs in Palermo (bellow) is even more heartrending, featuring a dozen dogs surviving obvious deprivation with rough dignity.

The remaining two series at the Corcoran are portraits of working horses. The less successful of the two spotlights racing horses in Palermo and Paris; in this series, Dumas’ ambitions were quite literally hemmed in by a web of restraints on the animals, making it harder for her subjects to display much individuality. More compelling is a newly commissioned series (above) on the burial horses of Arlington National Cemetery. Working in teams of six, these horses execute eight burials a day, five days a week. No wonder they seem so drained in Dumas’ late-in-the-day photographs, enveloped in their stalls by a funereal gloom. Dumas expertly captures details like the horses’ jutting veins and cascades of folded skin, but what stands out in this series—as in the rest—is her ability to connect, time after time, with her nonhuman subjects.

The exhibition opens Saturday, July 14, and runs to Oct. 28 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW.


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