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TO MAY 28
The hoary old slur on Washington is that it’s a bore stuck in a swamp. Unfortunately, Tom Baril, a master of black-and-white photography, has provided some evidence for this thesis in a 10-image portfolio commissioned by the Ralls Collection. Baril, whose Ralls show in 2000 was full of timeless photos of New York City skyscrapers and bridges, seems to have had trouble adapting to Washington’s smaller scale and marble-clad monotony. (Key Bridge is pictured.) Baril’s portrayals of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial add little to their familiar iconography, and his images of less obvious sites either lack creative inspiration (the old Capitol columns at the National Arboretum, the new National Museum of the American Indian) or else depict far-from-compelling architecture (the Hirshhorn Museum, looking like a poor man’s Guggenheim, and, inexplicably, the United States Tax Court building sitting there like an enormous concrete-and-glass panini). Baril does have two things going for him, however. He produced one marvelous photograph of grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery by eschewing the typical midday light (which produces a stark contrast between marker and manicured grass) in favor of late-afternoon shadows, which cast the surroundings in a pitch-perfect somber mood. And he presents a half-dozen brilliant works from previous series: a surreally large butterfly hovering on a beach, an out-of-focus waterfall, several signature botanical prints, and a pair of jaw-dropping photographs of old industrial sites—including Factory, NJ, in which a five-smokestack, waterside building is hemmed in vertically by a diagonal girder bridge that soars across the frame as if it were a maestro’s brushstroke. Seeing it, you know you’re not in D.C. anymore. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, May 28, at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St NW. Free. (202) 342-1754. (Louis Jacobson)