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Mads Gamdrup’s “Renunciation,” a series of 16 large-scale photographs of desert landscapes, is less notable for its individual images than for its holistic concept. Gamdrup, a 40-something Dane, breaks little new ground visually, which isn’t surprising given that he’s chosen a subject that’s been documented repeatedly since the birth of photography. (The Corcoran’s own galleries hosted two of the finest examples of recent desert photography a decade ago—Emmet Gowin’s aerial images and Richard Misrach’s meditations on Nevada’s Pyramid Lake and the Lahontan Valley wetlands.) A few of Gamdrup’s images stand out: One shows ethereal, almost three-dimensional cumulus clouds; another offers a bracing contrast between an icy blue sky and a cracked desert floor; and a third reveals the series’ sole sign of a human presence, an oddly comforting flurry of tire tracks. But on the whole, viewers are forgiven for feeling a bit numbed by the monotony of beiges, drab greens, and pale blues. Far more noteworthy is the series’ arrangement. Rather than documenting one specific place, Gamdrup combined desert images he made in the United States, Morocco, Egypt, and Iceland, subtly teasing strains of visual unity from wide geographic diversity. And Gamdrup has hung his images spaced equally—and with horizons aligned—so that they spread out across the large, rectangular gallery. His approach envelops the viewer in the desert’s elementalism, heightening the emotional, and even spiritual, resonance of his work, much like the reflective experience you’d get inside Houston’s Rothko Chapel.
The exhibit is on view 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays to Aug. 14 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $10; free on Saturdays.