City Paper is not for tourists
The success of the temporary Ward 8 art festival LUMEN8 is owed in part to the support it received from L’Alliance Française, the D.C.-based French cultural center. The Francofication of Anacostia continues with “Le Temps Devant,” a show of portraits by Paris-based photographer Frédéric Nauczyciel. Another L’Alliance jam, the exhibition of vanitas portrait photographs attempts to reveal, through Nauczyciel’s treatment of his subjects, something of the rural landscape in France. His romantic approach to subject and setting makes it abundantly clear that such an idealized landscape is not long for this world. And that’s a problem. Nauczyciel’s photos scold the viewer: If the past, the anachronistic, the rural, represent a sort of utopian ideal, then what the hell are you doing here in the present, the contemporary, the urban, but imperiling it? The works are manipulative, even—not mere romantic depictions of the French, alone, lost in their thoughts and in their vineyards, but staged portraits that reveal both truth and fiction. It’s a totalistic campaign akin to the concerted push toward locavorism and a more simplistic, Quaker lifestyle that shuns the future. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Portrait artists from Caravaggio to Gregory Crewdson have indulged in illusory effects to frame fantasy as a better version of reality.
The exhibit is on view noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays–Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays May 4–June 29 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Road SE. Free. honfleurgallery.com. (202) 365-8392.