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to Jan. 6, 2007

The trouble with every new Maxwell MacKenzie photography exhibition is that his past work has inevitably set a high bar. MacKenzie’s latest show reprises some of his signature mid-’90s work—ramshackle-but-proud old barns photographed using infrared black-and-white film—and a memorable 1975 image of the dark interior of a barn in Bennington, Vt., pierced by sunburst pinpricks of exterior light. But a majority of the nearly two dozen images on view at the Fraser Gallery were taken during the past few years; though some take new directions visually, and others find architectural resonance between the American West and such far-flung locales as Scotland, none of the images are as impressive as the aerial photographs of farmland in MacKenzie’s stunning 2004 exhibition, “Markings.” In the Fraser show, MacKenzie takes a Bernd and Hilla Becher turn with images of solo corrugated silos, and he cleverly photographs a cluster of Don Quixote–style windmills in Spain so that their bumpy white stucco finishes contrast with their perfectly gridded black blades. In two other images, MacKenzie pays homage to Minor White’s The Three Thirds by photographing a weathered wood façade in Otter Tail County, Minn. But the biggest departure is a series on piers in California. The photos are mostly a disappointment—their subject matter is familiar and their indistinct textures are a far cry from the mind-bogglingly detailed prints on the walls nearby, sized as large as 32 inches by 96 inches. The sole impressive pier image in the exhibition features blazing red lights in the gloomily encroaching night—a far more robust splash of color than MacKenzie normally offers and a possible approach for the artist’s next project. The exhibition is on view from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday to Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, at the Fraser Gallery, 7700 Wisconsin Ave. Suite E, Bethesda. Free. (301) 718 9651. (Louis Jacobson)