Arts Desk

Colorful Cuban Portraits & Tumbledown Buildings: Vincent G. Ferrari and Patricia A. Smith at Photoworks, Reviewed

The exhibit now showing at Photoworks, like so many others I’ve seen there over the years, pairs two artists whose work couldn’t be more different. Fortunately, the artists succeed despite the oddity of the pairing.

Patricia A. Smith uses old-school Photoworks barnblack-and-white to document buildings that, as she puts it, “have outlived their useful, but not aesthetic, purposes.” Channeling (sometimes a little too closely) the works of Minor White, Smith turns her lens to the weathered architectural facades of wooden barns and other tumbledown structures.

Sometimes these images pack in visual complexity from border to border, as in “Smokey Mountain Mill 2,” which features a freeze-frame of gossamer streams of falling water. More pleasing, though, are Smith’s simpler arrangements: an image that focuses on two ring-shaped door pulls chained together, for instance, or a decontextualized pattern of wood at a salvage yard.

Cuba girlMeanwhile, Vincent G. Ferrari uses vibrant color (with an occasional splash of black-and-white) to take photographs of Cuba. Many of the images feature expected tropes from the island nation—bikes and pedicabs, classic American cars, colorful but peeling walls, oxen pulling primitive plows—that wouldn’t look out of place in tourist literature.

But Ferrari’s portraits steal the show: a grizzled man in a white shirt, a grandmother posing with a granddaughter, an old woman in a colorful headscarf smoking a stogie, a pair of women who could be sisters standing behind an iron gate of eccentric design, and, most of all, a lovely image (bottom) of a young woman peering out of a simple but elegant arched window.

Through July 21 at Photoworks, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. Sat 1-4, Sun 1-8 and any time classes are being held.

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