Arts Desk

Reviewed: New German Photography at Goethe-Institut

The annual exhibit "Gute Aussichten" may have a narrow focus—new German photography—but that's belied by its range.

In the most recent edition on view at the Goethe-Institut, Fabian Rook offers a spark of inspiration—he culls images from Google Street View and prints them as if they were landscape photographs from his own travels in Mexico, Japan, and the Middle East (bottom). The resulting washed out depictions of forlorn neighborhoods grapple with issues of authorship and technology—the next logical step in a concept pioneered by Google Earth artist Christoph Engels, whose work was shown on the same walls in 2011.

Equally washed out (and similarly repetitive) are the photographs of Nicolai Rapp, which feature somewhat mysterious bundles wrapped with string that may, or may not, be shipments of used clothing destined for the Third World (middle left). Meanwhile, the exhibit’s three standouts couldn’t be more different from each other. Susann Dietrich created a large matrix of nearly identical photographs of a spherical cut crystal resting on a pedestal (middle right); the only differences between them stem from the boldly colored geometrical flakes of light that appear, kaleidoscopically, within the otherwise clear orbs.

Svetlana Mychkine produces impressive, and depressing, color documentary work inside drab Russian orphanages (top). Then there's Saskia Groneberg, who offers the sole source of humor in the exhibit. She gives winking star treatment the humble office plant—a Muhammad Ali figurine preening within a forest of bamboo, a tendril shamelessly flirting with a spiral phone cord, greenery grappling with overflowing papers for control of a stack of inboxes, and a strikingly pendulous strand of cactus.

Henning Bode uses old-fashioned black and white to document poor residents of the Mississippi Delta; though his is a well-worn path, perhaps too well-worn to yield new insights here. Elsewhere, Jakob Weber tries an intriguing idea: photographing a location where one learned about important world news, but in doing so places oneself over the actual event, potentially trivializing it.

Through April 12 at Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW. (202) 289-1200. On view 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays.


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