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Charles Cohan’s found a novel way of looking at airports—from the air. Drawing from blueprints of airfields across the world, the artist makes prints of terminal diagrams; from Denver to Glasgow, none of the designs—save the vaguely sea urchin-shaped airport of Paris—resembles anything so much as a component of some doodad or another. Cohan responds formally to terminals, tracing designs that, even at their most technical and bureaucratic, still represent aesthetic choice and achievement. At least with regard to the prints in the show, Cohan acts as much engineer as printer, making aquatints but also coborundum collagraphs, a sort of screenprint using stencil film. By reducing these terminals to a series of hieroglyphs (printed, here, on paper whose colors resemble a spring sale of department-store khakis), he’s ultimately reduced design to its formal characteristics. In one sense, the aerial/blueprint views emphasizes the global marketplace: Airports are merely small nodes in a globalized network, ferrying humans and products back and forth. But Cohan’s also flattened all those characteristics that make airports so compelling: hellos and goodbyes, terror, and exhaustion.
The exhibition is on view noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, to Saturday, April 5, at the Curator’s Office, 1515 14th St. NW, Suite 201. Free. (202) 387-1008.