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to july 1
Ken Ashton’s photos often look unintentional, like bungled tourist snaps that should’ve ended up in the trash. In his current show at Flashpoint, “De Aqui al Paraiso,” Ashton offers a travelogue with cropped heads and torsos, motion-blurred night-life scenes, and crumbling urban vistas covered with graffiti. It quickly becomes clear, though, that all of this seemingly haphazard shooting is a cultivated aesthetic. Something inexplicable typically sits in the margins of Ashton’s compositions. In At the Bar, the right half of an otherwise ordinary scene is interrupted by two large disembodied hands, haloed by unearthly light. In Noah’s Basement (pictured), light passing through floor-length red curtains gives a room an ominous glow; a central figure’s head is cropped above the nose, leaving a large square fan in the foreground to serve as a sort of surrogate eye. Ashton emphasizes the inherently artificial quality of moments snatched out of time. It’s almost as if the show were a scrapbook, including framed personal mementos such as matchbooks with telephone numbers written on them, museum tickets, and postcards. Yet the works themselves reveal next to nothing about the artist or the places he’s visited. As for the locales themselves, they, too, seem anonymous—his view of Portugal from a train is an unremarkable grainy stretch of beach, scrub, and ocean. For Ashton, personal experience remains subjective and unknowable, and his democratizing aesthetic—finding beauty in bent-up fence posts or in a basketball game on a hotel television—reduces the world to an interchangeable string of cool juxtapositions. “De Aqui al Paraiso” is on view from noon to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, July 1, at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Free. (202) 315-1305. (Jeffry Cudlin)