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TO AUG. 9
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Since 1997, David Allison and his family have headed west each summer, usually beginning their vacation at a ranch in northeastern Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest. “Having spent many years photographing on the East Coast,” writes Allison, a photography professor at Northern Virginia Community College, “the western landscape posed a totally different set of visual challenges.” Alas, to judge from the works on display at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, the Western landscape has gotten the better of Allison. The problem is twofold: Not only is it hard for any photographer to effectively render the West’s massive scale, but in the grasslands of Wyoming, that task is made all the more difficult by a topographical featurelessness and a ubiquitous yellow-brown-green color palette. Although Allison captures these dominant tones pitch-perfectly (Landscape with Cactus is pictured), their overall drabness is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. Occasionally, Allison is able to wring a strong image from subtle material, as in Landscape, Soldier Park, which captures the modest tonal variations in receding strata of grass punctuated by the slice of a barbed-wire fence. More often, though, Allison requires a happenstance flash of colora cherry-red pole, a piercing blue skyor a compositional risk (as when he lets an enormous, milky-white sky dominate a thin strip of ground in Hunter Mesa No. 1) to lend his imagery visual interest. The show is on view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, to Saturday, August 9, at Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Lou Jacobson)