We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
TO MARCH 27
On the surface, Frank Hallam Day hews to the dominant photographic aesthetic of our time, epitomized by the work of Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, and Edward Burtynsky: large-format views of the urban and industrial landscape, limned in airless color and made with a stark realism. On a deeper level, though, Day’s late-’90s photographs of downtown Berlin actually come closer in spirit to those of “Troubled Land,” Paul Graham’s 1987 survey of Northern Ireland. Graham’s images were all about introducing viewers to the tiny, obscured signs of Northern Ireland’s sectarian strife—a graffito here, a flag there, the occasional curbstone painted in ethnic colors. Similarly, Day’s works—all made between 1996 and 1999—document the subtle relics of the Cold War that scarred downtown East Berlin before most were bulldozed or covered up during a frenzy of redevelopment. Drawing on his experience living in Berlin as both a child and an adult, Day (now a Washington resident) turns viewers on to unrepaired World War II–era bullet holes, Communist-era shop signs, and East German plastic fences (which withered away far more rapidly than their West German counterparts). Though several images feature an unrelentingly dusky palette—in one piece, a coating of cement dust turns orange traffic cones gray—Day captured Berlin in the midst of an artificially colorful frenzy of construction, a city crisscrossed by gaily colored sump pipes (Red Pipe is pictured), its public squares decorated with a layer of post-party detritus and rainbow-hued boas. Thanks to Day’s sharp-eyed tableaux, we, too, can learn that the bright-orange shipping container of Snow in Park, Friedrichstr. was used as a dormitory for construction workers and that the piece of the Berlin Wall in Info Box, Potsdamer Platz became but a trivialized fragment, resting unnoticed amid a spate of new buildings. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and by appointment, to Saturday, March 27, at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Free. (202) 338-5180. (Louis Jacobson)