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TO DEC. 6
Sally Gall is captivated by holes in the ground. To make her large black-and-white photographs, the New York-based photographer clambers underground and aims her camera toward the light. Though her prints are decidedly dark, such images as Aqueduct I and Pause feature a subtle shading. And just when you think Gall’s light-and-dark tableaux may be getting redundant, she offers unexpected twists, such as the absurdly long, Lord of the Rings-esque tree roots of Thirst, or the landscape of Entry, which is cut by a dark void that serves as the direct counterpoint to her usual skyward gaze. Gall’s finest image, however, is also her most formalistic: Quadrant (pictured), which cleverly depicts a cliff and a body of water within four equal quadrants, each neighboring square slightly darker than the one before. Exhibiting with Gall at the Ralls Collection is John Alexander, a painter of varied techniques and media. His oils on canvas are permeated by moody, jungle greensa nice complement to the shady brambles in some of Gall’s imagesand his recurring depiction of screeching ravens adds to the exhibition’s generally unsettling tone. But it’s Alexander’s visually understated, emotionally freighted watercolors that steal the show: regal kingfishers, toothily aggressive fish, and one simian showing anger worthy of the protagonist of a Francis Bacon painting. The only work that’s stranger than the monkey is an oil-on-canvas portrait of Richard Nixon, pallid, grimacing, and mysterious. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Ralls Collection, 1516 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 342-1754. (Louis Jacobson)