Reviewed: “Markets” and “24 Hours East of the River” at PhotoWorks
Glen Echo’s PhotoWorks Gallery is hosting two simultaneous exhibitions that are nominally about community, but which take strikingly divergent courses. Alec Dann’s “Markets” lovingly documents fruits and vegetables on display at local farmers’ markets, carefully arranging them into standardized matrices in ways that play off the items’ divergent colors and textures. Except for some mild oddities, like blue-tinged produce, his works are somewhat repetitious; the cleverest are those in which Dann tightly frames his square image around a box of raspberries or yellow grape tomatoes, a surefire winner at least since Carleton Watkins made a deadpan photograph of a box of tightly packed peaches back in the 1880s.
If Dann’s images are stylized and driven by perfectionism, then “24 Hours East of the River” is a more ragged, but livelier, affair. Five members of the Exposure Group African American Photographers Association collaborated to document Wards 7 and 8 for one rainy 24-hour period on Oct. 19, 2011. Their work includes a number of scenes that are not unexpected for this genre—a crowded barbershop, shuttered ex-restaurants, bustling street corners—but the photographers sneak in a few pleasant surprises. E. Carol Burns, for instance, captures enigmatic purple lettering from a store sign reflected in a dark pool of standing water on asphalt, while Vincent Lee Smith documents Fort Mahan Park after sunset, lit by an eerie green-yellow glow (top). Smith also contributes the most striking image in either exhibit (bottom), one infused with irony worthy of Robert Frank—a Metro bus covered with a Wells Fargo ad touting “financial planning” and “business banking” unloading workaday passengers onto a sidewalk strewn with chewing gum and litter.
Through Oct. 15 at PhotoWorks, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. Open 1 p.m. to 8 pm Mondays and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and any time when a class is underway. That includes most evenings, and many Saturdays and weekdays. To inquire call 301-634-2274.