Forget the diaphanous colors and shades of gray that are the focus of Walead Beshty’s photograms; artistically, they’re not much different from a micrograph you might see on the cover of Science Magazine. No, the most interesting parts of these cameraless, negativeless images—which Beshty makes by exposing photographic paper to light—are their surfaces; in a departure from most art on paper, they are shamelessly creased and torn during the creative process, then left unrepaired, in all their tactile glory, for visitors to see. A more direct exploration of this theme involves a series of sculptures—identical minimalist glass boxes that the artist ships around using standard cardboard containers. (The containers are also shown; nice product placement, FedEx!) Along the way, the sculptures inevitably get cracked and chipped in unique ways by trucks and delivery people, thus reversing the normal linkage between an item’s physical condition and its market value. Is it any wonder that the exhibit brochure is an enormous, 18-by-24-inch sheet of glossy paper that forces visitors to figure out how to scrunch it down to fit inside their pocket?
The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to Sept. 13 At the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street SW. Free. (202) 633-1000.