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TO JUNE 17
“Cuba Now!,” an exhibition of images by nearly 20 artists who work in America and Cuba, presents many questions: Is the woman on the wrought-iron balcony with the faraway gaze (pictured) alienated or just pensive? Are the old houses of Havana crumbling or just artfully aging? Are the ’50s-era automobiles the embodiment of cool or merely the most obvious symbols of a dysfunctional economy? But the overriding question posed by this exhibition seems to be: Is it possible to look at photographs of Cuba without reference to politics? However one leans, “Cuba Now!” includes some fine photography. Shawn Davis chronicles ordinary moments in black-and-white, from a farmer tending his sunflowers to a couple going through morning routines. Sam Tyler captures four white-suited men striding for cover on a rainy afternoon, each caught in perfect midstep, and David L. Hamilton offers a vertiginous cityscape that echoes the messy dynamism of the urban scenes of Thomas Struth and Wolfgang Tillmans. Raúl Cañibano Ercilla does wonders with smoke and angular shafts of sunlight in his images documenting the weathered faces of rural Cubans. But most impressive of all are the understated black-and-white photographs made by Washington photographer Nestor Hernández Jr.: children playing in the street, hands sweeping in all directions; a pair of young girls lying symmetrically on a park bench, one awake, one asleep; two toddlers in a window nook, their baby fat hemmed in by iron bars; and a boy standing against a whitewashed wall holding a thin tire behind him, unconsciously echoing da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man. Such images are so compelling that they almostalmostallow you to tune out politics. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday to Tuesday, June 17, at the Sumner School Museum and Archives, 1201 17th St. NW. (202) 442-6060. (Louis Jacobson)