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TO SUNDAY

During her long career as a photographer, Margaret Bourke-White produced biting images of the Great Depression, World War II, and other pivotal 20th-century events. Alas, “Margaret Bourke-White: The Photography of Design, 1927-1936″—now in its final week at the Phillips Collection—features none of them. The more than 150 images in this exhibition, all taken during Bourke-White’s early years, are visually luscious—remarkable even—but, too often, they are substantively empty. Bourke-White imbued industrial machinery and mechanical parts with far more glamour and artistry than one would expect them to hold. But most of her images were essentially propaganda. Some were made on assignment for big companies and used in magazine advertisements or books printed for corporate friends and employees. Others came when she was allowed into the Soviet Union: After facing some initial reluctance from Soviet officials, Bourke-White produced a series of photographs so stunningly heroic that Stalin and his cronies asked her to extend her time in the country (and even paid her expenses). The curators mention this background in the wall text, but they don’t do much to acknowledge how it may have shaped her portrayals. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, May 11, at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. $7.50. (202) 387-2151. (Louis Jacobson)