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TO OCT. 23
Few things are more irritating than people who succeed at virtually everything they do. And Viggo Mortensen, of Lord of the Rings fame, seems to be one of them, to judge by his photography exhibition at Addison/Ripley Fine Art. Using long exposures and a decidedly horizontal format, Mortensen photographed Native Americans re-creating the Lakota Ghost Dance, a spiritual phenomenon that precipitated the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. Though some of the resulting images are more or less straightforward depictions of dancers in historical garb holding forth on the parched desert floor, others are inspired and mesmerizing: hazy figures seemingly limned with unfettered brushstrokes, blurry abstractions of shadows and flames, and one image in which several figures are so elongated that they look like Giacometti sculptures as rendered by a drip painter. (Miyelo 12 is pictured.) Mortensen also offers a number of black-and-white photographs, including one with two side-by-side circular images that (intentionally or not) recall the stereographs made by 19th-century explorers of American Indians in the West. But mostly, the black-and-white images pale in comparison with Mortensen’s works composed in hues of vivid and grainy peach, sand, and ochre, especially when printed as large as 40 by 80 inches. Alas, the show suffers from two flaws: too little explanation of what’s going on in the photographs and the project’s reliance on historical re-enactors, who were brought to the California desert (far from Wounded Knee Creek) for the purposes of shooting the movie flop Hidalgo. The project would carry more heft if it didn’t seem so Disneyfied. But what else can you expect from a matinee idol? The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Oct. 23, at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Free. (202) 338-5180. (Louis Jacobson)