A revenant is “a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) So in “Revenants,” an exhibition of photographs by Oskar Schmidt, we’re told that the eponymous zombies are figures from old paintings. Schmidt photographs young models and worn props in a well-lit indoor space that’s at once stagey and Spartan. In a sense, both Schmidt’s inanimate and animate subjects are equally posing in still lifes, but the models’ gently contorted poses make them so disengaged from the viewer that it’s actually the inanimate objects that connect best—two playing cards leaning tenderly against each other, a seemingly flat “globe” set against a wall (trompe l’oeil, anyone?), and a battered white table that recurs in several images as a proscenium. Most striking is the sheaf of artfully weathered papers on the table, the topmost of which features a hand-drawn skull, seen at an oblique angle that suggests the puzzling, skew-angled skull that Hans Holbein the Younger included in his 1533 painting, “The Ambassadors.” A revenant, indeed.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. MONDAY TO THURSDAY AND 9 A.M. TO 3 P.M. FRIDAY TO OCT. 29 AT GOETHE-INSTITUT, 812 7TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 289-1200.