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TO MAY 14

Communicating the beauty of the desert is no easy task: Not only is the climate pitiless, but the land can seem featureless. During trips to Australia in 1977 and 1988, German film director Wim Wenders braved 113-degree temperatures to make a series of photographs of the parched outback. His images—27 of which are on display at the Goethe-Institut—depict a harsh and isolated universe closer in spirit to Robert Adams’ soulless American Southwest than to Ansel Adams’ trove of natural beauty. Wenders’ outback is home to, in the photographer’s words, “traces of civilization”—tumbledown houses, construction detritus, disused rail cars, junked VW Beetles (Beetles in Coober Pedy is pictured), delicately rusting fences, rutted tracks in the sand, and an odd group of tourists out on a mine-it-yourself expedition. Wenders’ sleep-inducing palette ranges all the way from tan to beige, but he—or his handlers—has at least managed to lend the exhibit an impressive stylistic panache. Wenders’ starkly horizontal format—in the almost cinematic aspect ratio of 1-to-2.9—is well-chosen for desert work, and when hung sequentially end to end, the images wrap around the room like an unspooling movie. The show is on view from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, to Friday, May 14, at the Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 289-1200. (Louis Jacobson)