Arts Desk

FotoWeek D.C.: “Portraiture” at Studio Gallery, Reviewed

Old age

The small FotoWeek exhibit of portraits at Studio Gallery includes the work of no fewer than 10 artists, each with a distinctly different M.O.

Leena Jayaswal offers a large-scale print of a high-contrast bedroom scene that features a figure reading the newspaper, expressed with a satisfyingly inky look. Joe Small experiments with disorientingly layered multiple exposures, while Peter Karp fruitfully reprises his technique of basket-weaving strips of images into a composite portrait.

Andy Bloxham contributes one of his signature fictional tableaux of people interacting mysteriously, this one including four figures in a bathroom, one of them visible only by his feet under a stall door. (Are they injecting drugs? Are they engaged in some kind of erotic activity?)

But the exhibit’s two standouts are Page Carr and Gail Rebhan. Carr produces a deadpan, 117-cell matrix of food products and packaging, decontextualized and perfectly centered in the frame while set against a spare, gray background. The work is a commentary on consumer society, though it’s less clear whether Carr’s artist’s statement is intended to be tongue-in-cheek. (“I am available to document the contents of anyone’s refrigerator, for a fee calculated from the serial number of the appliance, and zip code, Bagus Dolland total number of items found and photographed.”)

If Carr’s work comes off as coolly clinical, Rebhan’s is layered with emotion. Rebhan spent years documenting the zig-zagging decline of her father between 2003 and his death in 2006, a passage of time communicated by photographs of her father superimposed with calendars noting the date of each of his medical appointments (top).

“The series forces viewers to confront aspects of the aging process that are not often discussed,” she writes. “The preferred depiction of old age is as a time of active leisure. Seniors are typically portrayed as healthy and independent. The debilitating effect of dementia and loss of control over one’s body is hidden.”

Rebhan has produced a much larger body of work about her father’s failing health, but this single, straightforward image wraps up a difficult subject elegantly and succinctly.

The exhibit is on view to Nov. 10 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St NW.

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