There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
TO FEB. 15
David Graham, a suburban-Philadelphia-based photographer, is drawn to eccentric Americana. His work includes images of impersonators (of Marilyn, Elvis, and, somewhat more unexpectedly, Roy Orbison), Bob’s Big Boy statues (pictured), and, in at least one case, a lawn full of toy riding horses. Some of Graham’s prints are aesthetically inspired, including two head-on images of aging walls with artfully peeling paint; others feature intriguing subject matter, such as a partially completed Las Vegas billboard featuring an enormous tiger paw, cropped to heighten its peculiar menace. Unfortunately, however, too many of Graham’s subjects are diminished by being reproduced photographically: a garishly painted “salvation mountain” rock, a childishly rendered mermaid and rainbow placed in a pond, and a parking-lot mural that stars a Botero-style figure pulling a youngster’s wagon piled high with toy cars and trucks. Graham’s problem is that outsider and visionary art succeeds or fails on its own; it can’t be translated by a mainstream photographer, no matter how kitsch-savvy that person may be. Indeed, Graham is at his most eloquent when he keeps his subjects simple. Even though it’s room-sized, “Marge Gapp’s Studio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” is actually an elegant still life, complete with a small pile of excess floorboards and a chair placed high on a plywood pedestal. And “Approaching the Grand Canyon, Arizona” provides a wonderfully succinct motto for photography itself, painted on a big boulder in red and white: “Bring the Camera.” The exhibition is on view from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, and by appointment, to Saturday, Feb. 15, at Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)