Arts Desk

FotoWeek DC: “Linger On” at Goethe-Institut, Reviewed

Goethe soccer

The six contemporary photographers now showing at Goethe-Institut share little aside from coming from the German region of Saxony-Anhalt. Their work ranges from understated to baroque, though the former, despite its distinctly low-key nature, is more enticing than the latter.

The most baroque works come from Iris Brosch, who photographs models in boldly colored classical-art poses in such exotic venues as Venice, including some subjects who flaunt their full figures in the nude. If this seems a bit much, the images by Carina Linge give them a run for their money. Linge pairs humans with animals; the most shocking of Linge’s photographs (in fact, it's rather revolting) features a woman caressing a dead, skinned rabbit.

The other photographers offer a respite. A series of images by Max Baumann are close-up, black-and-white portraits, many with the subjects’ eyes closed, as if they had become death masks. Matthias Ritzmann follows in the taxonomic footsteps of the German photographer August Sander by cheerfully documenting a wide range of hobbyist groups, from soccer players (top) to gardeners to car enthusiasts.

The exhibit’s two landscape photographers offer the show's finest work. Using a horizontal format and washed-out color, Reinhard Hentze documents human impacts on the land, from a large, Robert Baltz-style prefab warehouse with rigid geometries to a small utility marker standing in the middle of a field.

Superficially, Robert Schlotter’s images echo Hentze’s in their modesty, but their significance depends on a weighty backstory. Taking a page from Paul Graham and his 1980s images of contested areas of Northern Ireland, Schlotter photographs humble scenery in German border areas—the friction points of the Cold War (bottom). Eerily, these are places whose centuries-old names communicated unease, such as Elend (misery) and Sorge (worry); Schlotter’s unassuming approach to documenting such places perfectly matches this buried angst.

On view to Jan. 31 at Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St NW.

Goethe Border

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