There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Brett Weston’s last name dooms him to an eternity of comparisons to his famous father, Edward—comparisons that are glaringly obvious. A glimpse at the Phillips Collection’s extensive retrospective of Brett’s photos reveals an eye for abstraction, rich textures, stark contrast, and a love for the immense beauty of the American West. Like father, like—well, you know. But such a comparison would be too easy. Beyond the photographs—and they are gorgeous, of course, with their wavy sand dunes and reflections in lakes as smooth as glass—Brett forces us to comprehend legacy, and what it means in art. Is it true, as some allege, that Brett would have been a more famous photographer had he been born with a different last name? Does a family proclivity for photography make one less deserving of fame, when talent and skill come so easily? Talented lineage is something we reward in film and music, but examples in art are fewer. Brett tried to differentiate himself from his father by occasionally shooting industrial subjects or cityscapes that Edward avoided. In these, rather than close-up abstractions, he steps back, filling the frame with the strong lines of San Francisco electricity poles or New York skyscrapers that keep the eye wandering further and further into the scene. Abstractions, though, like Brett’s painterly images of dark kelp against white sand, are the bread and butter of both Westons—not to make another comparison. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, until Sunday, Sept. 7, at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. Free. 202-387-2151.