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TO AUG. 10
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Westerners who’ve made brief visits to India may not have fond memories of the Ambassador. For some 35 years, this sputtering and often ramshackle antique was virtually the only kind of car available in the country and thus the instrument of one of the most exhausting creatures on earth: the Indian cab driver. Stay a while, though, and your affection for the thing may grow, though probably not to the level of Raghubir Singh’s. The Indian photographer has shot these boxy sedans all over his country and from just about every angle. In this exhibition’s 46 vivid imagesshot on Kodachrome but presented as dazzling digital printsthe car can be foreground, background, or framing device. Sometimes it’s simply part of the landscape, flanked by such competing forms of transportation as buses, trucks, motorbikes, oxen, camels, or the occasional elephant. Sometimes it’s at the center of the image, juxtaposed by shape or color with an ancient sculpted cave, someone wearing a cloak that resembles a car cover, or other Ambassadors. Most striking are the photographs in which the car’s doors or windows seem to lead to another world. On the beach in Tamil Nadu, an Ambassador’s open doorway (pictured) presents the blue sweep of the Indian Ocean. In Karnataka, the reflection in its window makes an Ambassador appear to blend into the lush green landscape, like a ready-made Magritte. By comparison, the two shots of an Ambassador assembly line in West Bengal are deflatingreminders that it, after all, is just a car. It’s on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily to Sunday, Aug. 10, at the Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 357-4880. (Mark Jenkins)