Arts Desk

Reviewed: John Cole at Cross-MacKenzie Gallery

Like Frank Hallam Day’s images of ship hulls, John Cole’s color photographs of walls dwell on peeling paint, unexpected textures, and odd splotches of color. Cole’s works aren’t as mesmerizing as Day’s (which were my pick as the best photographic images in Washington in 2013) but some are worth a look.

The Silver Spring-based photographer’s works, many of them made in California, offer unblinking views of dilapidated facades, rarely with any ground or sky in view—“inviting tableaus for the unpredictable,” as he puts it. Cole documents blue-tinted metal splashed with white paint; slowly decaying concrete; horizontal wood siding painted bright yellow; a warehouse painted in the geometric red patches of a color-field painting (middle).

Three images stand out. “Habre de Venture Barn Wall” fixates on a rough-hewn wooden façade that suggests the elegantly tumbledown siding of Minor White’s “The Three Thirds.” “Vineyard Barn Wall” (bottom) features a virtual checkerboard of corrugated metal—accidentally alternating patches of blue, brown and silver that achieve an unexpected coherence. The finest work is the understatedly complex “Cannery Wall” (top)—an irregular, but solid, stack of horizontal building materials, along with some heavily weathered concrete and a smattering of wires thrusting out from the façade. Cole’s timing was impressive, tripping the shutter just as the sun was in a position to cast nearly 45-degree-angle shadows—proof that even when the subject is a flat wall, it never hurts to have a little depth.

Through June 5 at Cross-MacKenzie Gallery, 2026 R St. NW. (202) 333-7970. On view Wednesdays-Saturdays noon to 6 p.m.


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