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“American Skies”

German artist Heike Baranowsky spends a lot of time thinking about empty space. The five videos projected onto the walls of G Fine Art for her current show, “American Skies,” all show long static shots of seemingly featureless wilderness—deserts, plains, and stands of heat-blasted conifers. Baranowsky isn’t interested in America’s vastness in the ways that earlier artists were—none of the triumphalist stuff one might associate with, say, Thomas Cole. No, her work looks like bad tourist videography, albeit shot with a very steady tripod. Even her presentation seems offhandedly anti-art: The projectors often sit low to the gallery’s floor, perched casually atop cardboard boxes. But there’s something lurking beneath Baranowsky’s bland vistas: In Ballet, a flock of starlings takes flight and then wheels around, passing repeatedly in and out of the left and right margins. Running in slow motion, the birds begin to look choreographed—almost, um, balletic. Baranowsky employs subtle digital manipulations: In Shape Shifter (pictured), a faraway blimp slowly executes a perfect figure eight over and over again. And in Out of the Blue, the skies over the desert slowly fill with ominous contrails—actually superimposed animations that trace American military flight patterns over Afghanistan. For Baranowsky, the American landscape is neither majestic nor banal—it resonates with secret military maneuvers and collective paranoia. “American Skies” is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, March 11, at G Fine Art, 1515 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 462-1601. (Jeffry Cudlin)