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TO APRIL 29
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Most photographs Michael Kenna has taken in recent years have been set in the rural reaches of Japan—a development that may be seen as either a blessing or a curse. On the downside, it’s a shame to see Kenna abandon more urban fare, such as the stylized nighttime shadows of Europe’s man-made environment or the cool minimalism of nuclear-plant cooling towers that made such an impression in his 2001 Ralls Collection exhibit. On the upside, Kenna has discovered a plethora of settings on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, where quietude and moodiness perfectly match the artist’s careful, tonally precise, black-and-white portrayals. In some, straight geometric fences stand out starkly against the blank, organic white of snow. In others, a daytime sky is so inky black that it looks meteorologically impossible. While Kenna’s work is generally more poetic than humorous—one tree’s curve, for instance, echoes the form of Hokusai’s famous Great Wave—it’s hard not to notice his occasional eye for the absurd, such as the precariously top-heavy rock formation standing near the water in Rock Formations, Study 2, Yoichi, Hokkaido. Still, in a selection that veers close to becoming mind-numbingly beautiful, two images stand out. In Sixty Trees, Nakafurano, Hokkaido, Japan, Kenna documents from afar a collection of knobby, wispy trees against silky white snow and sky. And in Balls in Water, Notsuke, Hokkaido, Japan (pictured), the most striking element isn’t the Tinkertoy-like spheres rising out of the sea foam; it’s the severe, knife’s-edge horizon line. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment, through Saturday, April 29, at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St NW. (202) 342-1754. (Louis Jacobson)